Nearly everyone has had the frustrating dining experience of waiting to place your order or for the server to bring your check. Now, new technology is aiming to change that. A growing number of restaurants have now installed electronic tablets or "dining kiosks" at tables for diners to order and pay for their meal. "Guests can order at their table or they can order at a freestanding kiosk standing up," says Michael Davidson, co-owner of Bolt Burgers, one of the first restaurants using the new technology. "The order goes to the kitchen, and the food is delivered as if it was an order taken by a cashier."
The electronic kiosks are not meant to replace live servers, but only to complement them and speed up service for patrons. Many of the restaurants that use the "e-menus" make it optional for people, but more and more customers are choosing the electronic ordering. "The reception has superseded our expectations," says Davidson, whose business has only been operating for three months. "The desire of people to order electronically has been much greater than we would have expected." Nevertheless, there are still some challenges with the system. "The barriers to adopting it are significant costs, and also it takes an awful lot of time to make the experience user-friendly," says Davidson.
The idea does appear to be catching on. A recent survey from the National Restaurant Association found nearly half of respondents would be willing to use a touchscreen terminal at a restaurant if it were offered. Chili's recently added the touchscreens to hundreds of its restaurants, and Applebee's has announced plans to do the same. Regardless of how many restaurants add the electronic ordering system, Davidson says it shouldn't change the industry's core approach to customers. "It adds a little bit of dazzle to what we do," he tells KTRH. "But whether you order from a kiosk, from a tablet at a table, or from a cashier directly, the end result is exactly the same. It's all about delivering quality food and quality service."