Four Tips for Managing Tablets and the Restaurant Guest Experience

Four Tips for Managing Tablets and the Restaurant Guest Experience

  • Faster ordering.   

  • Smoother dining experience.

  • Larger guest checks.   

  • Kids’ games.

  • Quicker table turn.


Tablets at the table can offer these benefits, but how do you measure their effectiveness in providing a better guest experience? 

How do tablets change the server’s role with the diners?  Some argue that tablets at the table may replace servers to some degree, while others say that the technology and servers work together to provide a seamless dining experience.   It’s fair to say that when questions arise about the tablet, servers need to be ready to handle them. 

Consider how this technology influences the server. The server remains a central element of the dining experience and typically is the main employee that clients would like mystery shoppers to assess. Think about part of the servers’ motivation: tips.  How do tablets influence tips?  Some diners view tablet ordering as  limited service (where no tipping is required), which means  server tips may decrease.  On the other hand, servers report that tips increased when patrons use the tablet. A tip calculator on tablets and a higher total guest check with tablet ordering may both contribute to this. If tips increase with tablet ordering, servers will encourage guests to use the tablets.  If tips decrease, servers won’t be as likely to support the tablets. Either way, tips impact servers’ view of tablets and how they handle guest use of them.

Because mystery shops offer a way to see how well staff meets expectations for a top-notch guest experience,  your training and shop survey need to include what servers’ should be saying and doing with the tablets.  If your restaurant implemented tablets recently, or is considering launching them, here are four considerations for mystery shops:

1.   Servers in the Know.

To make the tablet experience a positive one, the server knows how to use the tablet and troubleshoots if necessary. If a guest uses the tablet and has trouble with it, the server assists, either by showing the correct way to use the tablet, or by taking care of the request personally.  For the mystery shop survey, questions to consider may include:

“Did the server ask if you were familiar with the tablet?”

“Did the server invite you to use the tablet for ordering?”

 “If you needed help with tablet ordering, was the server able to assist?”

Servers need to be in the know about situations where they should take the lead and when tablet use may not be the best choice. For example, servers are more involved when large parties visit and guests desire a complex food order.  During the initial visit to the table, the server learns the needs of the guests and sees how much the tablet may be used.  Mystery shops should capture information on how knowledgeable the server was about the tablets.

2.   Servers Tell It All.

To create a faster experience for paying and ordering, servers tell about the tablets benefits when they first visit the table. When the tablet technology is new at your restaurants, servers may spend more time discussing the tablets.  For example, the server tells the guest that they may pay using the tablet, rather than wait for the check to be delivered to the table.  Or, he may tell guests with children that they can use the tablet to play games.  What other expectations do you have for servers’ communication about tablets?  Whatever they are, include them as part of your mystery shop criteria, so you can see how well servers do with the new technology. The shop results can guide you toward improved server training for the tablets, if it’s needed.

3.   Tablets and New Roles.

The server takes an initial order for an alcoholic drink to verify that the person is of legal drinking age.    A large party will require server help as typically there is only one tablet per table.   Do your servers know their roles and how to work hand in hand with self service capabilities that tablets offer?  Your mystery shop survey should reflect these expectations. Example:  “Did the server take your drink order and encourage you to order a second one using the tablet?”

4.  It’s up to the Guest!

Most guests seem comfortable using the tablets, and in fact, Chili’s reports that 4 out of 5 guests use them when dining at their restaurants. Despite the convenience and speed of paying for an order with a tablet, some diners will not feel comfortable using the tablet for ordering, payment or both. Servers listen to guest preferences and adapt their actions to what each guest prefers. If the server notices an older couple who seems reluctant to order using the tablet, there is a good chance that the guests will also not use the tablet for payment. The mystery shop program can include a scenario where the shopper says they are not comfortable with the tablet, and report on how well the server responded.

With these four tips, you are on your way to using mystery shops as a way to gauge tablets’ impact on the guest experience. Using tablets now at your restaurant? We welcome your comments on them!

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