Applebee's to Deploy 100K Tablets

By Lori Castle, Editor-in-Chief — December 16, 2013

Mobility in the enterprise is increasingly spilling over to customers and consumers. Techs in the field may close work orders with e-signatures and sales reps can show product catalogs on their iPads.  Also in healthcare, retail and hospitality, where many of the roles are customer facing, mobile is improving workflow and becoming an enabler of the experience.

But should employees worry that they can be replaced by technology? Case in point, Applebee’s, a casual dining restaurant, says it is “stepping into the future to redefine and enhance the guest experience through the installation of 100,000 E la Carte Presto tablets, powered by Intel.”

The devices are set to be on every table and multiple bar positions at more than 1,800 Applebee’s restaurants in the United States by the end of next year.  DineEquity a franchisor of Applebee’s and IHOP restaurants, announced the relationship with an aggressive schedule for 2014 installation throughout the Applebee’s system. The tablets  will also be considered for introduction at IHOP locations.

“Let’s face it, everyone who has ever been to a restaurant has been frustrated by waiting for their check,” said Applebee’s President Mike Archer in a release. “Starting out, our goal was to create a way for guests to control when and how they pay their check. What we learned after nearly two years of testing is we can provide much more. The Presto tablet will deliver our guests a robust slate of offerings for not only transactions, but entertainment, social interaction and more, moving forward.”

Presto! Improved Efficiency
In the pilot program, the Presto tablets not only significantly reduced transaction times for guests, but also provided them a better overall experience, based on their feedback. By simplifying the transaction process and allowing guests to control the timing, Applebee’s says that team members were able to provide better service and more attention to guest needs throughout the dining experience, rather than focusing on delivering a check.

It sounds counterintuitive — the guests have better experiences without a server?  In an on-air interview with CNBC, Julia Stewart, DineEquity Chairman and CEO addressed the conundrum, (sort of) “This isn’t a labor play. Guests do not have to use it. We are still going to have a food server at every table. It’s not about saving labor.”

So it’s not about labor, what is it about? Stewart said, “[It’s] about creating an opportunity to talk to our guests and have an interactive conversation with them.”  Logic would say that is actually also the job of the server, but mobile can certainly capture data that the human does not, and should also help the company have a better peak into the mindset of their customer. 
How the technology will be received by employees remains to be seen.

Tablet Specs
The Presto tablet, powered by Intel, features an all-day battery, an illuminated credit card reader, and a ruggedized design that withstands spills and bumps in a busy Applebee’s environment that sees one million guests per day. The device is equipped with the latest in technology, including Bluetooth, cameras and NFC (near field communication) chips to seamlessly transition to opportunities for mobile wallet and mobile phone interaction and more.

Initially, the tablets will provide guests the ability to pay at their table, add additional drinks, desserts and other menu items to their order and a selection of games. During the next 18 months, enhanced functionality, such as video streaming, music, additional games, social media interaction with Applebee’s active Facebook community and personal pages, sharing, gift card sales and more, will be added.

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