Last week, I posted something in my Empoprise-NTN NTN Buzztime blog that had a local connection, so I figured that I'd go into more detail about it here.
The original post described a Thursday night visit to Chili's Montclair, on the southwest corner of Montclair Plaza. This particular restaurant is one of over 1,000 restaurants that has installed a Ziosk tablet on every table.
In case you haven't figured it out, the purpose of the Ziosk device is to provide more revenue to the Montclair Chili's. The device makes it really easy to order appetizers (high profit margin), and it makes it really easy to order desserts (really high profit margin). In fact, it even lets you play games on the device - if you pay 99 cents for the privilege.
However, we didn't really exercise the features of the Ziosk, for two reasons. One, some of the options weren't of much interest to us that evening - we skipped the dessert, we didn't want to play games, and since we paid for our meal in cash there was no reason to use the credit card reading feature (note that I didn't say the secure credit card reading feature).
The other reason that we didn't use the Ziosk all that much is because our waitress, Maggie, took care of our needs before we could program the Ziosk to do so. Order appetizers from the Ziosk? Maggie took our order quickly. Order free drink refills from the Ziosk? Maggie got my drink order just before I was ready to request a refill.
As an aside, it doesn't appear that this particular technology is geared toward labor displacement. Rather than doing away with the waiter/waitress, the Ziosk served as an electronic assistant to our waitress. When it was time for our bill, she just displayed it on the device - and as I noted, we could have used a card to pay our bill, and saved her the trouble of running back and forth to another machine.
Of course, a lot of restaurants are installing various electronic devices - I know that Coco's has gone back and forth with the tablets that it gives to its wait staff. Perhaps in a few years there will be a lot of buzz about a retro restaurant in which waitresses take orders with pen and paper.