A self-service solution that allows restaurant and bar patrons to order and pay at their tables is now available from eTab. It uses a digital-menu interface on a portable touch-screen computer to wirelessly connect table to the restaurant's wait staff and existing point-of-sale (POS) system.

The company provides patrons the ability to control the pacing of their meals and payment timing. In addition, eTab offers a full suite of opportunities for on-premise marketing for restaurants and the beverage and food companies that supply them.

"Casual dining restaurants are hungry for a self-service technology that will help them increase efficiencies and revenues without a large investment, while also enhancing the patron's experience," said Wallace B. Doolin, chairman of Black Box Intelligence and former CEO of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide and TGI Friday's. "eTab provides a myriad of operational efficiencies for the operator, drives incremental revenue and enhances wait staff performance, while meeting patrons' universal desire to get exactly what they want, when they want it."

Bottom-line results

The self-service system enhances wait-staff service, streamlines operational efficiencies, increases up-selling and lessens the costs and logistical burdens of executing on-premise communications, according to a company press release. By enabling patrons to order at their own pace, orders are placed and delivered quicker, which increases re-orders. In pilot restaurant testing, tables turned faster and tabs increased, leading to a 10 percent rise in revenue

The company also offers the ability to create and change on-premise communications such as menus and promotional specials. The  "digital menu" allows restaurant managers to add, delete or change any menu item instantly and cost-free. In addition, specials and promotions can be created and changed instantly and programmed to automatically appear for a given timeframe on the menu. And every menu item, special and promotion can be instantly measured, analyzed and changed to optimize results.

How it works

After being seated and receiving a brief explanation of how to use eTab by their server, patrons begin using the touchscreen to order any food or beverage item on the menu, personalizing food and drinks to their tastes, such as preparation directions, substitutes and special side requests.

When an order is placed at the table, the kitchen/bar is notified through the existing POS system. At the same time, each server is informed of the order through a handheld device, which includes a notification feature with a running clock that displays the status of each table, such as when and how long ago orders were placed, if a table needs assistance or a customer has paid.

For special requests or questions, patrons can summon the server to the table with the paging function. When it's time to pay, patrons can swipe their credit cards to pay or page their server to pay with cash. The system also allows tables to split bills, add tips or have receipts either emailed  or printed through the existing system.

Sales-generating opportunities

According to the press release, eTab is designed to ensure prompt service and boost up-selling. Thanks to the server hand-held devices, servers can better manage the status of each table and maintain a high-service level. Up-selling increases with timed messages automatically delivered at each table, inquiring if patrons want another round of drinks, dessert or any other item management desires. For managers, a master screen allows real-time observation of all tables and servers, which helps with the assessment of staff training needs and performance-based incentives.

Marketing opportunities

The eTab system creates many opportunities for both beverage and food brands and restaurant operators to market their products on-premise, measure the impact of their efforts, connect with customers and make changes in an instant, the press release stated.

For example, logos or advertisements can be incorporated into the menu to reach patrons at the purchasing decision time. Brands can measure marketing data at a fraction of the cost and time of primary marketing research.

Restaurants can also use eTab to deliver satisfaction surveys at the end of a meal, which can be instantly reported. And patrons can enter their contact information at the point-of-purchase to be entered into loyalty programs.

The eTab system provides its equipment free but charges a monthly service fee of $400 for maintenance, programming changes and updates. Installation of eTab into the restaurant's POS system and wait staff training requires approximately four hours.

The system will be on display at booth #5656 May 21-24 at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago.

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