If you’ve dined out recently, chances are you’ve spotted a pub or restaurant with tablets or iPads mounted in enclosures on every table. This is the latest digital dining experience sweeping across the UK, thanks in part to the surge in popularity of the iPad as a tool used in many industries.
At its most functional, digital dining means ordering food or drink via a touch-screen tabletop menu. This can enhance the customer experience during busy periods and avoid a potentially lengthy wait for table service. Diners can also feel less rushed into ordering and can navigate the interactive menu to find important nutritional information and allergy warnings.
The restaurant itself can also benefit from having digital menus, which are easier to update and cut down on paper costs, while putting less demand on wait staff.
Self-service ordering kiosks provide the opportunity for restaurateurs to upsell additional food items, such as starters and desserts. Restaurant-targeted tablet maker Ziosk has reported a 20 percent increase in appetizer sales and a 30 percent increase in dessert sales.
Waterloo local The Thirsty Bear was one of the first in London to embrace the digital revolution. iPads have been installed on tables in bespoke tablet enclosures made by Bouncepad. Drinkers are invited to order food and drink directly to their table simply by touching the screen. They can also choose what music they would like to listen to on the pub’s jukebox via the touch screen.
The Westbourne pub in Swansea takes things a step further allowing punters to pour their own pints via self-service pumps wired up to tablets. After three pints per person, staff will do a quick visual check before any more drinks are ordered.
The beer pumps are activated via a card that customers can pay for at the bar and top up with credit. “The main bar is still the focus, where people can order drinks from bar staff. But this is an additional feature which many punters like,” says owner Mark Lingwood.
Restaurants are finding increasingly innovative ways of integrating technology into the dining experience. Inamo, a Japanese restaurant in Soho, provides diners with an interactive ordering system projected onto their table. The display shows large pictures of every dish, as well as offering games to play and the option to order a cab home.
Even McDonald’s has started rolling out its family entertainment stations in some UK branches, featuring iPads mounted in tablet enclosures where diners can surf the web, play games and browse social media while eating.
Integrating technology into the dining experience is undoubtedly a great way for restaurants to stand out from their competitors and generate PR coverage, yet the general reaction of the public to this phenomenon remains to be seen.
What we can be sure of is that the digital experience begins for customers long before they set foot in a restaurant. That’s why it’s crucial for restaurants to have a well-designed website which works across all devices – in addition to whatever tech they decide to deploy in their physical spaces.