There is a decent chance that the tablet device will fundamentally change the way people go out to eat in the next few years. Hard to believe? Maybe, but tablet devices are already decreasing in price, and the benefits to the hospitality industry are impossible to ignore. They don’t fit snugly into every type of business, but they can help nearly every facet of this one.
A litany of eMenu iPad-driven companies have already cropped up, providing menu tablets in bulk to restaurateurs bold enough to give them to guests. iPad menus offer a revolutionary interactive ordering experience, in which guests can get customer reviews and ratings, hi def pictures, instant pairing suggestions, and recommendations based on previous visits. The wow factor is off the charts, but the practical benefits of eMenus are obvious.
It’s a proven concept that guests who see food before they order it are more likely to order more (see dessert trays, carving tables, etc.). When guests order directly from iPads, their order goes to the appropriate terminal, such as the pantry, broiler, or bar. Guests can also easily request special orders, or even design their own entrée. A few restaurants around the world have gone to iPad menus in the last year, and the publicity has been massive for them.
What do servers do if they’re not taking orders? They’re rapport-building faces of your business who are also expert service providers, more capable of anticipating the needs of every guest. They’re instantly notified when orders have been placed, and have more time to exceed expectations about them.
A swiveling, bolted-down iPad at the end of every booth or on the corner of every four-top lets guests see daily specials, modified wine lists, or personal recommendations easily. Guests can always request a check instantly, ask to see a server, or even recommend an entrée or bottle of wine to friends on Twitter or Facebook. In this way, guests are part of shaping the restaurant experience, rather than a slave to the process.
If iPad menus are too great of a leap, individual server POS terminals help servers place orders on the fly and impress guests placing orders. The server POS can also create instant pairing suggestions and make recommendations that a server can recite to a guest.
They can likely keep servers more organized, alert them when food is ready in the kitchen, or when guests should be checked on.
iPads in the office can make counting inventory a snap and automate the ordering process completely. Inventory could be counted completely using audio commands, and orders could be placed based on minimum thresholds and auto e-mails. This would drastically cut down on time and reduce printing costs. It would also completely make ordering a numbers game, and give kitchen leaders time to devote to managing the people instead of paperwork.
In the end, iPads in restaurants are about making the business simpler so that an operator can focus on what’s truly important – creating a great product and delivering top-notch service in a friendly, clean, inviting environment. While tablet menus may take awhile to catch on, investing in a couple of iPads (one for the kitchen, one for the back office) can revolutionize the way the nuts and bolts of the business is run.
To this point, the only restaurants to try iPad menus are in select big cities. However, it’s not going to be too long before a new business will be providing this truly unique experience in your area.