By Alex M. Susskind, Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and Benjamin Curry, Ela Carte, Inc.
The use of tabletop technology continues to grow in the restaurant industry, and this study identifies the strengths and weakness of the technology, how it influences customers, and how it can improve the bottom line for managers and business owners. Results from two studies involving a full-service casual dining chain show that dining time was significantly reduced among patrons who used the tabletop hardware to order or pay for their meals, as was the time required for servers to meet the needs of customers. Also, those who used the devices to order a meal tended to spend more than those who did not. Patrons across the industry have embraced guest-facing technology, such as online reservation systems, mobile apps, payment apps, and tablet-based systems, and may in fact look for such technology when deciding where to dine. Guests' reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, with 70 to 80 percent of consumers citing the benefits of guest-facing technology and applications. The introduction of tabletop technology in the full-service segment has been slower than in quick-service restaurants (QSRs), and guests cite online reservation systems, online ordering, and tableside payment as preferred technologies. Restaurant operators have also cited benefits of guest-facing technology, for example, the use of electronic ordering, which led to increased sales as such systems can induce the purchase of more expensive menu items and side dishes while allowing managers to store order and payment information for future transactions. Researchers have also noted the cost of the technology and potential problems with integration into other systems as two main factors blocking adoption.