Tabletop Tech

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Tablets are making the move from a source of portable entertainment to an invaluable tech tool for operators.

“Tableside ordering is where tablets really shine,” says Scott Waldrum, vice-president of Marketing at B.C.-based Squirrel Systems, which specializes in restaurant point-of-sale systems. “Having your server come over and be able to order directly from the tablet at the table has a ton of benefits for guests, as well as the restaurant.”

The goal of Squirrel Systems’ tablets is to help elevate guest experiences by making service more efficient. “When you have tableside ordering and then runners to bring the food out, you get more attentive service,” says Waldrum. “Servers aren’t running back and forth to put orders in and get food. [It] changes the operational model of the floor. Servers are with customers more often and can handle more tables.”

Servers can also be armed with a wealth of information to help customers make dining choices. Tablets can be programmed to include the ingredients in each dish, wine pairings, calorie counts, specials and inventory counts for specific dishes so servers know exactly what’s available.

Restaurant-management teams also use tablets to access real-time data and reports to organize day-to-day operations. “The older model would have managers in the back looking at reports, data and managing the restaurant,” says Waldrum. “If the managers have tablets, that’s all available to them while they’re on the floor. [They can look at] average check sizes, table turns — those are the metrics they measure for shifts.”

Kitchen automation helps tablets connect the front and back of house. “When an order comes through from the server on the tablet or regular terminal, the automation system sends different parts of that order to different stations,” explains Waldrum. “The order is separated appropriately, depending on how long it takes to deliver those items, so it all comes out together.”

For those who want technology to play a larger part in giving customers control, Presto offers several tablet solutions, including a tabletop system called PrestoPrime and Presto Wearables — a watch-like platform worn on staffs’ wrists. The wearables can immediately notify servers when an order is placed by the customer through the tabletop tablets and when the kitchen has finished making that table’s food, leading to quicker and more attentive service.

The PrestoPrime tabletop device allows guests to place their own orders. Restaurants can customize their tablets and choose how much control their diners have over menu options. “Our customers can pick how much [information] is exposed to the customer — some want the entire menu and some want a partial menu,” says Rajat Suri, CEO and founder of Presto.

If customers have dietary restrictions, Suri says “[the tablets] can be programmed with dietary information, nutritional information, calorie counts and can allow [guests] to filter [menu options] by different diets.”

As guests wait for their orders to be brought out, they can engage in one of the many games offered by the tabletop platform. “We have multi-player trivia so people can play against real people, in real time, in the restaurant or across the country,” says Suri. “We [also] have kids’ games and digital board games.”

Partnered with the newer Presto Wearables, the tabletop tablets also immediately notify managers when a guest is unhappy so they can quickly resolve issues and generate positive experiences.

Suri believes guests are happier when they can control their own experience. “We capture around 20 times more guest feedback on our system than any other system out there,” he says. “The restaurants can use [the information from the surveys] to drive better performance. With immediate feedback, if a guest is unhappy, they can be talked to and rescued before they leave the restaurant.”

Written by Shelby O’Connor

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