The Time for Technology

The world of technology made an instantaneous impact on all of us at the turn of the century, and those advances will be coming to bars soon—perhaps within the next five years—if the world of dining tech hasn’t already been installed at your own establishment. Self-serve POS kiosks are all the rage at airports, pharmacies, and supermarkets, and they’re going to be delivering that instantaneous and immediate self-gratification to dining establishments nationwide as the technology becomes more streamlined and efficient.

The time for that technology is here now, and it’s likely going to stay, according to Dave Miller, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Buzztime, a gaming company that has interfaced with restaurant systems to implement chip card technology. “It’s so important to have tablets on the tables for maximum dining efficiency,” says Miller, whose company strongly believes in the customer-facing technology.

Buzztime has streamlined the process of POS systems as the product enables customers to have tabletop, self-service ordering and payment.

In addition, the devices themselves are built-in advertising displays that will further drive revenue in the restaurant industry. Kiosks will have the ability to provide touchscreen ordering systems where daily specials or bestsellers could be highlighted on the front pages. Photos of food and beverage may be accompanied by more detailed descriptions that will easily fit onto cyber menus and can be updated daily. Add-ons like french fries or onion rings will pop up as suggestions.

While some debate the impact POS systems will have on both wait staff and customer experience, Miller thinks the technology has already demonstrated the type of positive impact it will have on business. He is seeing an increase in order size, tip percentage, and a significant decrease in the amount of time it takes to turn a table.

“One, if you’re looking to turn tables faster, having tablets on the tables where people can pay their bill when they’d like to allows tables to turn faster,” says Miller. “If you’re looking for increased check size, the tablets with the dining tech that we have in them allows you to surface suggested selling items and add-ons to food items directly on the tablets, so that is part of driving the overall higher check.”

Detractors think that this new form of cyber-dining will negatively impact all front-of-house staff, and that restaurant owners are installing kiosk ordering systems to replace staff as increased minimum wage hikes loom. However, most industry experts flatly deny that technology will ever replace living, breathing people.

Those who have already installed the self-service technology are seeing a marked increase in customer satisfaction as guests can reorder drinks, peruse the dessert menu, and even pay without waiting for the server to be called over. The server can in turn handle more tables in a much shorter amount of time.

These systems can be expensive to install and even more costly to maintain, but business owners are buying in as the self-service technology market is expected to balloon to a nearly $40 billion market value within the next five years. As more and more food and beverage establishments turn to tabletop kiosks to order, industry experts predict even more growth with the relative ease of adding gaming or entertainment options to systems.

According to Jegil Dugger, Sales Representative of technology firm Juke Slot, the system they manufacture is a traditional, heavy-duty POS kiosk that is provided free to bars and restaurants. Juke Slot’s technology costs a bar around $400 a month for the service and support fee, and it is designed to keep people in business.

“As more systems become available, the price will go down and the tech will become universal,” says Dugger.

Juke Slot’s technology has even allowed bars or lounges that don’t have kitchens to partner with local eateries to put food on their menus. The systems are integrated so the food tab is separated and can be paid for directly by the bar.

Einar Rosenberg, Chief Innovation Officer at Creating Revolutions, says that his company’s technology, called Touch & Discover™, is more app-based for personal smartphones or devices.  

Touch & Discover offers a unique service pager—a mobile communication platform that lets guests use their smartphones to ask a server for something. The goal of this service
is to enhance communication between servers, patrons, and bar managers in order to streamline service. His version, since it uses personal devices, is a standalone system that will only cost an average bar about $7 a month per table.

“The key to understand is we change nothing of the current processes the business has, yet we make everything better,” says Rosenberg.

He says that the company is not an ordering technology, rather they are a communication technology. “At first glance, it’s always difficult to see the difference, but simply put, the technology addresses what we call the 3 C’s of Service: Communicate, Connect, Confirm,” says Rosenberg.

The third C is the most important. “It’s not enough to communicate to the right employee if they don’t have motivation to get to the customer,” he says.

His Employee Mobile Unit technology not only informs the right employee, but makes sure the employee arrives to the customer by making the employee tap their device to the top of the customers’ phone, thereby informing management which employee arrived and how long it took to service the customer.

“Management can even create rules such as if they want customers to be serviced within a specific amount of time, the system will monitor that and if an employee has surpassed that time minimum, then, and only then, will management be informed. This truly automates managing employees because the manager is looking at the manager app only when something is wrong, but as long as everything is right,” says Rosenberg, “the phone
or tablet running the manager app never rings.”

Ease of payment is a big factor with this new technology. Customers choose to cash out at any time, while servers are freed up to deliver more food and drink to tables. Customers won’t ever lose sight of their credit card, bills can be split using the kiosk, and third-party payment companies like Apple Pay are also available to be used.

No longer will patrons take issue with the amount of time it took a server to come over or the frequency of times a staff member came over as ordering and paying is completely up to the customer.

This has resulted in an average of a two percentage point increase in tipping rates at restaurants that have this technology—something that has made servers realize the technology truly is here to help the entire dining experience and shouldn’t be viewed as
a threat to them.

“It frees them up to handle more tables and actually generate higher tips on average with the tablets there,”says Rosenberg.

As they say, time is money, and technology is proving to be quite the moneymaker for everyone involved.

By Keith LaBelle

Photos (top to bottom):, Juke Slot, BuzzTime, Creating Revolutions.