Casual dining chain Chili’s will be introducing tabletop tablets to 800 of its US locations, after a successful trial run earlier this year. The computer screens allows customers to swipe through the menu, place their order and pay their bill all without the help of a waiter.
The device is not actually intended to remove waiters from the restaurant entirely. Currently, customers cannot order their whole meal electronically, and have to wait for their server to order the first round of drinks. Nevertheless, the tablets will inevitably change the level of interaction between guest and server. For people in a rush, they can quickly pay their bill without trying to get their servers’ attention and can use their credit card without worry.
From Chili’s point of view, it is also a means to ‘up-sell’ items, i.e. get people to spend more money. The Wall Street Journal reports that the tablet trials encouraged people to stay in the restaurant longer and order more. Krista Gibson, SVP President of Brand Strategy for Chili’s said there was a 20% increase in sales of desserts, which popped up on the screen midway through the main meal as a visual reminder of the sweet treats available.
The question now becomes will people prefer to go into a restaurant and take on part of the service element themselves?