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Updated Nov 01, 2023

Best Uses for Tablets at Your Restaurant

Using a tablet at your restaurant can improve the customer experience and your restaurant’s efficiency.

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
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A tablet can be an amazingly powerful tool that significantly improves the flow of your restaurant. For years, it has been common for small businesses, such as vendors at farmers’ markets, to use a tablet when making sales on location. However, tablets can now meet all types of restaurant management needs.  

Why restaurants are switching to tablets

There are many reasons why some restaurants are switching to tablets, including improvements to the customer experience, increased efficiency and greater profits.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right POS system for your restaurant? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Efficiency and inclusivity

Most sit-down restaurants require a server to deliver the menus and then come back and take the order. They may need to make a few passes before the customer is ready to order. After deciding what to order, the customer often has to wait a few minutes before the server comes back.

Allowing customers to order at their convenience improves their experience, and it also increases efficiency and accuracy. Servers are busy and sometimes make mistakes when taking orders. If the customers order themselves, errors are less likely.

Tablets are also a great addition to dining experiences for those with anxiety, disabilities and language barriers. It gives them the chance to order at their own pace without worrying about miscommunication with the waitstaff, and pay when they feel comfortable. 

Reduce human error

Servers may experience miscommunication with customers due to various reasons like loud music in the restaurant or soft-speaking individuals. They may miss a customization, mishear the entire order or miss a stated allergy. Tablets allow diners to order their food without worrying about mistakes occurring and with the assurance that any allergies or customizations will be seen by kitchen staff. 

Reduced labor costs

Customers ordering and paying from tablets cuts down on labor costs. Servers no longer have to take the orders or pick up the check and run a credit card themselves. Over time, this can add up to a significant increase in efficiency and a reduction in labor costs. Servers and cashiers can handle more diners without being overwhelmed.

In addition, restaurants can cut down on costs for menu printing if tablets are used for ordering. This way, when new items need to be added to menus or items have to be removed, the restaurant doesn’t have to pay for another batch of menus. They can simply update the menu on the software for no extra cost. 

Unique customer experience

A tablet might not create a unique customer experience in itself, but what you do with it certainly can. An interactive and informative menu allows you to showcase your brand’s personality and provide more information. 

Do you have a superstar ingredient? Do you grow your own produce? Tablets allow you to share these facts. You can also offer conversation-starters for the table or games that customers can play together.

TipBottom line
Tablets make it simple for customers to be specific with their orders. They can easily add requests for condiments or note their preferences for how well done they want their food.

Cross-selling and upselling

Tablets allow for automatic cross-selling and upselling, instead of servers having to make the suggestions. It’s easy to add upgrade options to menu items, offer specialty drinks and display your signature desserts after customers finish their meals. You can provide customers with drink and meal pairings, such as a wine that goes best with a particular meal, or you can show which appetizers are most popular among diners. 

Greater profits

All of the above benefits add up to one thing: increased profits. Streamlining the ordering and checkout process, easily cross-selling and upselling, and providing more information for your customers can all increase your bottom line. 

Tablets might be a big investment initially, but they are well worth it for many restaurants. A previous study on the restaurant chain Applebee’s reported that 70 percent of diners used tablets, and more than 50 percent were used for fast transactions. 

They also showed that customers were likely to tip servers more often with tablets than without them. This was due to the pre-programmed tipping features that calculates percentages and total amounts. 

The best ways to use tablets in restaurants

1. Replace your menus.

You can use a tablet to replace your traditional printed menus, and there are plenty of premade options already out there, such as eMenu Pro and MenuPad. This can save you money in printing and reprinting. It also allows you to be agile in keeping a seasonal menu. 

If you place a few tablets near the entrance of your restaurant, customers can review your menu before they get seated or to the counter. Sit-down establishments might want to place a tablet at every table and let customers order directly from their seats, so diners might get served more quickly than if they relied exclusively on overworked servers. And when people get served faster, you turn over tables more quickly.

For restaurants with a large wine list, tablet menus can hold so much more information than you can get in a paper menu. With apps like WineStein, you can provide a guided tour of your wine list, separated by grape variety and climate zone. 

It can offer up tasting notes written by your sommelier as well as food pairing suggestions. With apps like Aptito, diners can request a server’s attention or even ask to speak directly to the chef, which could improve a customer’s experience.

2. Replace your registers.

Tablets can easily replace your traditional cash registers that take up so much of your counter space. Tablets are flexible and easy to update. When a new, more secure software version is released, it’s simple to download it. 

Tablet registers do not require a lot of hardware. You need your tablet and a card reader in order to accept credit card payments, but that’s all that’s essential. Of course, stands, protective cases and styluses aren’t out of the question, but they aren’t necessary. 

Finally, tablet cash registers are portable. If you have a sit-down restaurant, you can take your tablet to the tables and take your customers’ payments while they are seated. This streamlines the payment process for your staff and diners, which can mean more money for you. 

3. Run your business software.

Tablets help you track your business inventory, vendors and other processes. Popular software that you need to run your business is available on tablets. You can also download top accounting software to track your business expenses and run your payroll online. If you have delivery drivers, you can even download highly rated fleet management software to your tablet and track your drivers while they are on deliveries. 

Did You Know?Did you know
A tablet can even help with your restaurant’s inventory management, as you can use its camera to quickly track what you have on the shelves and in the freezer.

Tablets can help you run your restaurant more smoothly. You can offer features that help customers, like digital menus and tableside ordering. You can also use your tablet as a register and to manage your business processes. Popular business management software for tablets includes POS systems and accounting software, which are necessary for the long-term success of your restaurant.

4. Reduce wait times.

There are a few ways that tablets can help restaurants lessen wait times for customers. They can send orders from the table to the kitchen faster, speed up the time it takes to get checks paid, reduce the number of servers on the floor at one time and provide staff with more on-hand information, such as seating charts or customers needing refills. 

Restaurants can also reduce waiting time by implementing self-service kiosks. Customers walk up to the kiosk station and order for themselves on the tablets. The order is then sent to the kitchen, and diners quickly receive their food.

The best POS tablet system for restaurants

Most of the best POS systems offer tablet options. Here are three excellent POS providers to choose from: 

  • TouchBistro: TouchBistro’s POS software is compatible with iPads, iPad Pros and iPad Minis. You can process payments through TouchBistro payments or use a third-party processor. And TouchBistro lets you create customer accounts so you can track their order history. [See our TouchBistro review.]
  • Toast: Toast offers tablet options for restaurants and other types of handheld devices. Toast relies on Android technology, so it may not be the best fit for businesses that prefer iPads. Toast provides other features that are helpful to restaurants, like online ordering and extensive delivery options. [See our Toast review.]
  • Upserve: Upserve is a cloud-based system that offers tablets that can be used for tableside ordering and payment processing. Upserve’s mobile app can be used on iOS and Android devices. However, Upserve isn’t compatible with third-party payment processors. 

Jamie Johnson contributed to this article. 

author image
Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek co-founded and self-funded a small business that's grown to include more than a dozen dedicated team members. Over the years, he's become adept at navigating the intricacies of bootstrapping a new business, overseeing day-to-day operations, utilizing process automation to increase efficiencies and cut costs, and leading a small workforce. This journey has afforded him a profound understanding of the B2B landscape and the critical challenges business owners face as they start and grow their enterprises today. In addition to running his own business, Peek shares his firsthand experiences and vast knowledge to support fellow entrepreneurs, offering guidance on everything from business software to marketing strategies to HR management. In fact, his expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc. and Forbes and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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