Applebee's to Put Tablets in All U.S. Restaurants

The rollout is scheduled to begin in March 2014 and will include about 100,000 tabletop tablets.

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar has announced plans to use of touch-screen tablets in all of its 1,865 U.S. restaurants next year, with the yearlong rollout is scheduled to begin in March 2014 and will include about 100,000 tabletop tablets across the Kansas City, Mo.-based chain’s domestic system.

Applebee’s president Mike Archer said the primary goal of the rollout is to eliminate a common “pain point” that can hinder the overall guest experience: finding your server to pay the check. Fundamentally, he said, “It’s about putting more control into guests’ hands.”

Initially, guests will be able to use the tablets to order appetizers and desserts, as well as a second beverage. Servers will still bring menus to the table and take orders for main courses and first beverages. Archer said some restaurants will test making the full menu available on the tablet, and that could be a next step. Because the devices will be linked to the restaurant’s point of sale system, guests will be able to use their credit cards to pay at the table whenever they are ready, with a receipt emailed rather than printed out. “The credit card never leaves the guests’ hand,” said Archer.

The tablets have also been “future proofed” with features such as cameras, Bluetooth and mobile capabilities to allow Applebee’s to expand on technological opportunities in future. Down the road, Applebee’s could use the devices as tabletop jukeboxes, for example, or to sell gift cards. Video streaming is also an option, which would allow guests to watch a sports game at the table or enable kids to watch cartoons.

Applebee's is not the only restaurant using modern mobile technology to enhance their dinning experience. 

The move by Applebee’s comes a few months after casual-dining competitor Chili’s Grill & Bar announced it would roll out Ziosk tabletop tablets to all 823 company-owned locations in the U.S. by mid 2014. McDonald’s is reportedly testing the use of iPads in restaurants, allowing guests to build their burger from a selection of about 20 toppings using the touch-screen menu. Other concepts are also testing or using similar tabletop technology, including Genghis Grill, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chevys Fresh Mex and Uno Chicago Grill.

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