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Tech Savvy: Touchscreen tablets take over tabletops

The future is here--and it's tasty. Ziosk, the world's first ordering, entertainment and pay-at-the table tablet, has been popping up at restaurants like Olive Garden in Brainerd and Red Robin in St. Cloud, making it more convenient--or more conf...

Entertainment, ordering and pay-at-the-table touchscreens for the restaurant market make the dining experience more efficient and easier for customers and waitstaff. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
Entertainment, ordering and pay-at-the-table touchscreens for the restaurant market make the dining experience more efficient and easier for customers and waitstaff. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

The future is here-and it's tasty.

Ziosk, the world's first ordering, entertainment and pay-at-the table tablet, has been popping up at restaurants like Olive Garden in Brainerd and Red Robin in St. Cloud, making it more convenient-or more confusing, depending upon your feelings-to dine, drink or settle the bill.

With the tabletop tablet that stands on its own-propped up by its design to be viewed at an angle-patrons can use their fingers to choose from the available options displayed on screen.

Split the check? Ziosk will do it for you-no fuss, no muss. Calculate the tip? No need to break out your smartphone's calculator app. Need to turn in a receipt of that business lunch with a client? Fine-want it by email or printed out from the pay-at-the-table tablet-choice is yours.

Functioning much in the same way that adopters of the iPad or Kindle have grown accustomed to, with swipes or gestures on the touch-sensitive screen, options can be selected by applying light pressure to the pressure-sensitive screen that can be customized to each business.

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Rollout of Ziosk tablets to 45 new Outback Steakhouse locations in California was completed in early August, making it a total of 107 franchised locations in the Golden State.

According to the manufacturer, users will enjoy improved payment security through Ziosk's Point-to-Point Encryption and Europay MasterCard Visa, which helps to ensure sensitive credit card data is protected "from first card swipe, while in transit, all the way to payment providers."

Cerca Trova Restaurant Concepts, the exclusive franchisee of Outback Steakhouse locations in California, reported seeing "significant benefits" that include saving time, more server/guest engagement, increased e-club enrollments, real-time feedback and labor savings.

For example, Ziosk has saved dining guests, on average, seven minutes during the check process, especially useful, I suppose if you are on an awkward first-date that's not going well.

And with time freed up from running checks and payment, servers can spend more time with guests, so if the aforementioned first date is an epic fail, maybe you can befriend a server.

The benefits for businesses with Ziosk, according to Cerca Trova restaurants, is that those dining establishments have experienced a 10-fold increase in e-club enrollments.

And at the end of a recent Ziosk experience, I was asked if I wanted to partake in a survey using the tablet, so you can express your approval or disappointment of the fare without worrying about facing the wrath of a server who brought back your food with "a little something extra."

But if your first date, for example, grinds to a halt before even taking off, you can use the Ziosk tablet to call the server over, to order more food and drinks, to drown your sorrows or fill that empty hole in that heart ... or to play a variety of games or view promotions as an escape.

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While I'd like to think that those businesses that use Ziosk tablets have nothing but its customers' best interests at heart, Cerca Trova restaurants expect to recognize up to $3.7 million in labor savings annually, according to a Ziosk news release.

That's great-unless you are looking to enter the job force by becoming a server-then it does not compute, nor does it make much dollars or sense.

Secondly, in age where it seems society is becoming more impersonal despite the myriad of new ways to connect with each other-Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.-do we really need to find new ways to not deal face to face with each other?

Dining out has always been such a communal experience that the Ziosk seems to be in some ways the antithesis of that, but now you can maybe argue amongst yourselves about the best way (or not) to use it and maybe it will bring people together in a desire ... to eat at home.

Frank Lee
Frank Lee

Related Topics: RESTAURANTS AND BARS
I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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