What the Tablet Wars Could Mean to Restaurants

Photo: Sealyyg, Babeleur; video: Touchbistro

What the Tablet Wars Could Mean to Restaurants - Kandessa Media

With the seemingly accelerated perpetuity of tablet use in the hospitality industry, tablets appear to be on the verge of replacing everything from menus to entire POS systems. But will the adoption of tablets occur in tandem with the fast availability of solutions for the restaurant industry? What will come of the tablet wars?

"Menu is the most basic use for tablets," says Erik Thoresen, director, Research & Consulting, for Technomic. "Ordering functionality may be more lucrative, but is also more complex."

Thoresen says that a recent study conducted by Technomic, a foodservice research & consulting firm, showed that 27 percent of consumers have an interest in the use of tablets in full-service restaurants (FSRs), but in QSR, more than one-third do (36 percent).

In Mississippi, iPads are being tested at Roark Capital portfolio company McAlister's Deli, a fast casual chain with nearly 300 stores based in Ole' Miss. Four locations are using a one-iPad driven solution to expedite ordering for guests. The system was built and customized to McAlister's needs by Hospitality Solutions International, which has also built a solution for a hotel company. For the hotel, an iPad in the lounge takes orders from guests and speeds orders through to the bar. Order tickets print before the server returns to pick up the drinks.

In Canada, Touchbistro has several quick serve restaurant clients, including coffee shops and fast food restaurants. The company deploys an iPad-based solution that restaurateurs can download and deploy on their own tablets. Alex Barrotti, CEO of Toronto-based Touchbistro, Inc., says that because the company's solutions are on the iPad platform, solutions can come at a fraction of the cost of mainstream tablet ordering systems.

Thoresen says that although there are several uses for tablets, from displaying menus to allowing more complex operations, like ordering, only 20 percent of customers want to pay for their meals using an iPad or tablet (at FSRs). "This suggests that the market is really driven by consumer adoption, not restaurateur adoption," he says.

He also points out that tablets can offer additional customer engagement opportunities through entertainment functionality. Multi-purpose use of tablets for deploying games, entertaining young children and offering additional information about a restaurant's social media pages, locations and history will begin to compete with kiosks, in-table systems and other interactive technologies.Smart Menu

Montreal-based Babeleur Mobile has a Smart Menu system for both iPads and PC tablets through its partner Sealyyg, that can show food and wine. Sealyyg, has the Smart Menu in use in The Ritz-Carlton, Raffles and Maison Boulud in Mainland China, and is now working with Babeleur to bring the solution to North America.

The company also has a second, mobile phone solution, Delidiva.

"Delidiva is a mobile solution that allows customers to find restaurants, order delivery or take-out or reserve tables on the go," says Stephen Zhiyi Wei, Babeleur Mobile's founder and president, of the phone app. It's currently in testing in about 20 restaurants in Montreal, including independents, like Satay Brothers and Lunch Box, and also chain franchises like Kanda Sushi and Buffet Fulam.

"Over the last year or so, startup firms have targeted restaurant operators with subscription services that include equipment rental fees and can extend into an expense for the operator of several hundred dollars, or more, per month," notes Thoresen. Truly disruptive tablet technologies, he says, will offer solutions at a low-subscription fee that can be implemented using tablets purchased separately.

"We just released our Professional version to the market which synchronizes multiple iPads at once," says Touchbistro's Barrotti, about the company's recent releases. Barrotti is also launching an iPhone and Android program to send orders automatically to the Touchbistro systems.

Is the future of restaurant ordering and engagement in the hands of, well, customers? Tablets continue to pose a threat to more traditional restaurant technology systems, including POS registers and ordering kiosks, and lure customers with added product information and, in some cases, more self-reliance in the ordering process.

In the end, the success of tablets in eateries depends on customer adoption and their value proposition. "The question is really about how restaurant operators add value using in-unit tablets," says Thoresen.

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Copyright: Kandessa Media. All rights reserved.

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