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Tablets Find a Home in Restaurant, Hospitality Industries

By Rick Zambrano

Tablets Find a Home in Restaurants and Hospitality

Tablets are increasingly finding their way into restaurants, hotels and other retail establishments. One local shop in Boston, Tasty Burger, signed on with ISISPOS for POS-integrated tablet devices to take orders and speed up service at the compact sit-down restaurant and adjacent take-out trailer near Boston's historic baseball landmark, Fenway Park.

As we saw last year, the proliferation of these devices depends not so much on their availability for business use as on their adoption by customers.

DeNorma builds tablets for a variety of industries, including hotels, restaurants, retail and banking. The company is currently working with casual dining clients that have hundreds of restaurants, developing a solution to allow customers to self-order in combination with ordering from a waiter. The tablet-based system, predicated on certain wait time algorithms, will even suggest drink refills to guests during the course of the meal.

Additionally, in conjunction with a leading entertainment system provider, the tablets will feature real-time viewing of news, entertainment and sporting events for diners that aren't interested in what's being shown on the restaurant's own big screens. The tablets can either be handheld or be stationary at the table. In either case, Teo Giulea, co-founder of Denorma, says that the systems are hardcoded to only offer the restaurant ordering service, making them less susceptible to pilferage and theft. The tablets also have location trackers and a sophisticated security system to quickly alert the restaurant and authorities of theft.

HSI Solutions' wine marketing solutions are tablet-based and let diners in upscale settings view and choose from an extensive list of the restaurants' wine offerings. Servers can initiated orders from the tablets and easily add wine orders to open checks because of its integration with Micros-based POS systems.

HubWorks will present its tablet-based solutions at the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago. The systems will be built for a variety of clients. In casual dining, HubWorks is working with clients to test tablet-ordering devices based on the iPad system. The iPads can take orders and send them directly to the kitchen or bar, and can take payments from customers when they're ready to settle up.

"Our core business is payment functionality, but as we've evolved, we've found the customer experience is what it's all about," says Aaron Gabriel, vice president of sales and marketing for HubWorks.

Idaho-based HubWorks is working with casual dining operators, including Buffalo Wild Wings, in testing solutions that increase guest engagement and sales. In a test with one of its clients, HubWorks saw a 20 percent increase in beverage sales from the restaurant's run rate during its testing period. As it dove into the data, the technology company identified most of the pick-up was in beer sales, according to Gabriel.

Casual dining customer currently using Hubworks' tablets can browse select web pages, social media sites, play games, and check sports scores.

HubWorks iPadBeerAs reported by CNN and other leading news agencies, last year's crackdown on a multi-million dollar theft ring operating out of New York City highlighted the susceptibility of retailers and restaurants to having customers' card numbers stolen or their card information scanned by RFID (radio frequency identification) readers. iPad-based systems like the ones being tested by HubWorks illustrate the advantage of customers being able to self-serve and also keep their debit and credit cards with them at all times.

Cards that are RFID-enabled have posed serious issues for cardholders. Thieves can buy RFID readers to scan cards from unknowing holders, and use open source programs to capture and use the data that is read. The popularity of at-the-table systems in Europe, and their testing in the U.S. by restaurant chain Legal Sea Foods, have shown how effective they can also be at safeguarding cardholders from fraud and identity theft by restaurant workers, who also have sufficient time to scan or manually copy card information.

HubWorks' systems can offer chains tablets that can be either handed out to customers or stationary at the table, so the company's growth into QSR seems like a logical next step. In fast casual, in general, systems have been used to offer guests self-ordering capability and managers line-breaking and expediting advantages.

Those used by customers typically have been stationary to guard against loss and the heavier use caused by the quicker turnover of guests in the more casual environment of limited-service.

(Update November 12) HubWorks has also launched an iPad ordering solution for Japanese eatery Lucky Robot in Austin, Texas. The system will enable diners to order directlly from their tables with little customer intervention. Initially, reviews from customers that appear on Yelp are mixed.

Like the HubWorks Lucky Robot solution, called FoodHub, a ramping up of tablet and iPad offerings in foodservice will depend on guest appetite and restaurant acceptance.

Take Your Tablet to Your Room

DeNorma is currently working on the deployment of tablets at hotels as concierge devices. A boutique hotel in Chicago will offer them to guests to control in-room devices, including thermostats, and learn about surrounding opportunities. While hotel guides can advertise deals to guests, these tablets can actually place orders for theater and venue tickets and offer hotels affiliate commissions when partnering with surrounding businesses.

Hotel tablets can be used to more efficiently monitor energy usage within the various areas and rooms of the hotels, giving managers better awareness of system peaks and tapping into potential energy savings.

Beyond the use of hotel and restaurant applications, DeNorma is working with marketers, bars and banks to deploy its tablets for many other uses. For merchant payment systems, tablets offer ideal lightweight, fast-transacting solutions to retailers and smaller foodservice operators.

DeNorma's tablets can be customized to handle multiple merchant accounts and their encryption abilities are robust. Marketers will continue working to decrease hardware costs so as to offer tablets as value-added devices for their customers in countless applications beyond retail and restaurants.

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(05-04-12)

Photos: courtesy of SSPR for Hubworks

Copyright: Kandessa Media. All rights reserved.

Rick Zambrano

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This story appears in:  Marketing & Tech Articles

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