A new tablet is threatening to make waiters obsolete with its ability to showcase menu items, take orders, and settle the bill.
Though it’s not official yet, speculation is rife that in addition to rolling out in 20 restaurants in the San Francisco area and Boston, major restaurant chain Applebee’s will also be putting the E la Carte tablets on their tabletops.
In addition to browsing through color photos of the menu items, guests can use the tablet to play games during the ‘dead time’ between ordering and waiting for meals.
Customers can also modify their orders with the touch of a few buttons — dressing on the side, substituting fries for salad — and split the bill without having to pull out their cell phones or perform long-form division on paper napkins.
The company says the ease and immediacy of the device has also been shown to increase guest bills by 10 percent.
E la Carte’s foray is the latest tablet entry into an increasingly automated restaurant industry which has embraced the iPad as well.
A restaurant in Guangzhou’s Heng Bao Plaza in China has already eliminated the need for wait staff and has implemented iPads in their place.
When guests at Bone’s, a high end steakhouse in Atlanta ask for a wine list, they’re handed iPad tablets which archive all 1,350 labels.
And a new fast-casual restaurant chain in California, slated to open next month, will also use iPads for menus. At Stacked, the tablet will provide a visual picture of their meal as guests build their dishes with the addition or deletion of ingredients. They’ll also be able to order and pay their bill using the card-swipe system.
While the company E la Carte claims the tablet will complement waiters and not replace them, many see an increasingly automated service industry eroding the need for human servers.
Some restaurants have also equipped waiters with iPads and iPhones to place orders in the kitchen with the help of apps like Waiters Notes Pro and WaiterOne.