Can Table Top Ordering Systems Raise Restaurant Profits AND Save Customers Money?

by Travis Pizel · 7 comments

tablet ordering
A trip to a restaurant can be a slice of needed convenience after a long and difficult day. That relief of having someone cook and serve us dinner can turn to frustration when the server is nowhere to be found and you’re dealing with hungry kids with grumbly stomachs, though. That slice of convenience also loses it’s luster when you’re ready to go but it takes another fifteen minutes to pay the bill. The service industry thrives on looking for ways to improve the guest experience, and there’s something coming to restaurants near you that could remedy these specific issues and give customers more control over their experience, and the size of their bill.

Tabletop ordering tablets have been installed in about 1,500 restaurants across the country, including the Olive Garden I dined at recently with my family. The tablet was resting at the end of our booth, and attracted instant attention from every member of my family. Exploring the tablet’s capabilities, I found that I was able to use the system to order drinks, appetizers, and deserts. There were also online games that could be played for a price, and our current bill could also be viewed. The glaring omission was the ability to order main entrees. However, it does make sense given there are commonly special instructions or questions that need to be addressed.

Good For The Restaurant

Makes Servers More Efficient: The more customers use the ordering systems, the more efficient servers would be. Instead of walking from table to table taking orders, a server could simply go to the kitchen and pick up food for delivery. Servers could then concentrate more of their energy on making sure the experience is positive instead of writing down and putting in orders.

Increase Revenue Potential: Research shows use of the table top system results in an eight minute reduction in the guest experience on average. If guests stay a shorter time, the restaurant can serve more people each business day. Eight minutes may not sounds like a lot, but it could result in a significant revenue increase. For example, if a restaurant opens 12 hours in a day, and the average experience time was 45 minutes, each booth or table could serve a maximum of 16 groups per day. If the average guest experience is reduced 8 minutes, that increases the maximum number of groups per station to 19 per day. For a restaurant that has 50 stations, that’s a potential of 150 more groups per day. While this example represents the maximum potential increase, one could see how it could be a game changer for restaurants and servers who could also see their tips increase due to increased customer traffic.

Good For Customers

Less Wait Time To Order: The ordering of each item is broken into two parts: waiting for the server to take the order, and then waiting for the item to be delivered. The table top system eliminates the first one all together by allowing customers to order at their convenience.

Save Money: My favorite part of the system is the ability to look at the current total of the bill. The bill amount is always a bit of a mystery until it actually shows up. There were many times that I received the bill and wished I skipped the second glass of wine or the dessert to keep the bill lower. With the table top ordering system customers can constantly monitor their bill and make educated ordering decisions based upon what they’re comfortable with for a final check amount.

Payment Convenience: Waiting for the server to bring the check, and then waiting again to process the payment can take awhile. With the table top system, customers swipe their debit or credit card at their convenience at the table and be on their way.

Tabletop ordering systems are good for both the restaurant and the customer. It makes servers more efficient and increases the revenue potential for both the restaurant and the servers. They reduce customer wait time, increase convenience, and allows easy monitoring of the check balance in order to make informed additional ordering decisions. With all these advantages, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pop up in even more restaurants soon.

Have you ever used a table top ordering system at a restaurant? How did you like it?

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  • bharti says:

    I think one good alternative to table top ordering and driving the same maybe more benefits would be to have a mobile ordering app or website. If you have an app you can pre-order and give faster relief to your growling stomach. Secondly, you can have QR codes aesthetically put up in your restaurant for customers to scan and start placing orders on the restaurant website menu ordering url that opens up and pay via their mobile once order is complete. Both these methods are much more cost effective. If as a restaurant owner you want to explore an ordering system that helps you manage customers digitally visit

  • kymberly says:

    I agree with some of this but as an old fashioned ex restaurateur I a very attached to the personal touch as antiquated and flawed as it may be. There is just something about speaking with someone about your order that is irreplaceable. Thanks for the article – got my wheels spinning. Just found your site and LOVE the content. TY

    • Travis @Enemyofdebt says:

      Glad you like the site and the content, kymberly. Everyone looks for something different in the dining out experience……for me, it’s just a way to get food without having to cook it myself. If I didn’t have to interact with anyone, I’d be all for it. 🙂

      • kymberly says:

        hahaha! Now that is very true travis@enemyofdebt! I am very old fashioned so I like the human touch. So in some ways this may be the end of human servers. What do you think?

        • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

          I don’t think it’s the end of human servers…there’s plenty of people around like yourself that enjoy the personal side of having a server. 🙂

  • Gwen says:

    I’ve used a table top ordering device at a Red Robin and the thought of going through that experience again makes me cringe. The benefits you mention exist, but you didn’t mention any downsides.

    These devices are meant to be handled, but there doesn’t seem to be any thought to keeping them clean. The device at my table was covered in what looked like barbecue sauce. At least, I hope that’s what was dried on the system. Nearby, I watched as a toddler sat chewing on the corner of the device at their table and then drop it on the floor. At that point, I was sure that I didn’t want to have anything to do with the gadget. I used my napkin to set the device off to the side, away from where I was eating.

    When the server said that I had to pay on the device, I asked him to clean it because it was covered in sauce. He sort of cleaned the face of the device, but it was still sticky and there was still obvious food on the backside.

    Personally, I didn’t find anything convenient about the system. I saw it as a way to impersonalize the dining experience and an additional revenue stream for the restaurant by charging the customer to use the trivia app while waiting for the meal to arrive.

    • Travis @Enemyofdebt says:

      We don’t have Red Robin’s in my area, so maybe they handle it a bit different….but if I didn’t want to use the tablet, I didn’t have to. I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to touch it if it was covered in goo, but I’m OK with impersonalizing the dining experience. As long as my food shows up and I didn’t have to cook it, then mission accomplished – interacting with the servers is my absolute least favorite part about eating out. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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