Chili's Has Discovered De-humanizing the Restaurant Is Good Business
J Thoendell stashed this in Tech
Chili's recently made a big change to its in-store ordering system. The chain partnered with Ziosk, the restaurant-targeted tablet-maker, to develop a series of tabletop devices that allow customers to order their meals without the pesky interference of a human.
The tablets let your order your meal—and pay for it—through a screen, as you would with online ordering. (They also, as a bonus, offer games for kids and news offerings from USA Today.) Chili's just completed what it's calling "the largest rollout of tabletop tablets in the U.S."—which includes the installation of more than 45,000 tablets across 823 Chili's restaurants. "By this fall," Austen Mulinder, Ziosk's CEO, said in a press release, "guests at nearly every Chili's in the country can place orders, play games and pay their checks from our tabletop tablets."
nd here's the intriguing thing: Chili's is doing all that because de-humanizing the restaurant is, it turns out, good business. In 2013, in a pilot program, Chili's installed tablets at nearly 200 of its stores. And the chain found, Bloomberg Businessweek reported, that the presence of the tablets could "reliably increase the size of the average check." By, often, a fairly large margin.
That's in part because the tablets set defaults for tip amounts. The machines automatically suggest a tip of 20 percent; you can go lower than that (or higher), but you'll need to actively decide to make that change. Chili's is findingthe same thing that New York City taxis have: Default settings are, behavioral economics-wise, powerful.
You could also attribute the financial benefits of mechanized menus to screen-based ordering's immediacy. Not having to wait for servers to come and go can expedite the overall dining experience—shaving, Ziosk estimates, up to five minutes off each meal. And quicker table turnarounds mean the ability to serve more customers—especially helpful during peak hours.
But the most intriguing finding takes us back to the whim thing. Ziosk has found that eliminating the wait for a human server can boost impulse orders of appetizers at the beginning of a meal—orders that seem to be encouraged by the digital menus' large images. If you come hungry and you don't have to wait for a server and you're looking at an enormous picture of gooey nachos... there's a good chance you will order those nachos. Ziosk claims to have found a 20-percent increase in appetizer sales, as compared with standard, server-based ordering strategies.
Not sure if I should be excited about restaurants replacing jobs with tablets.
Then again, it does sound like a much better system.