Imagine a world where you'd never have to flag down a harried waiter. Where you can place your order for a ribeye and Jameson the moment you sit down. Where you can take care of the check as soon as you're ready—and not when said harried waiter gets around to it.
Bay Area-based company E la Carte just announced the launch of tableside tablets that will allow customers to place orders and pay the check without having to wait for a server. The devices are already in 20 restaurants (mainly in Boston and San Francisco), and the Applebees chain is rumored to be on board, too. Besides the obvious benefits to the customer—the tablets don't replace waitstaff, who are still around to serve food and answer questions—restaurants profit as well. Customers spend between 10 and 12 percent more when they use the devices, which cost about $100 per unit per month.
Also, the whole "who pays what" dilemma for groups is eliminated since it's easy to itemize the check and divide accordingly. Perfect for when Susie just had the beet salad and a glass of wine, while Jim had foie gras, lobster, and four vodka tonics, and pregnant Jane didn't drink at all. There are also easy buttons for calculating gratuities—15 percent, 20 percent, a la the credit card machines in NYC taxis—which, if the cab model is any indication, results in higher tips. I'm curious about the machines and would love to try them, especially when I'm pressed for time and there isn't a server to be found. But if I want to have a pampering dining experience, nothing replaces a little human interaction.
Have you used a tablet at a restaurant? If so, did you enjoy it? And did you spend more?