Uno Chicago Grill engages customers with tabletop technology

New research from the National Restaurant Association shows that customers now want technology incorporated into their dining experiences. Asked where they would most like to see restaurants add technology options, loyalty programs and ordering topped the list, followed by reservations, entertainment and payments.

One brand that's been leveraging the tech trend is Uno's Chicago Grill. The deep dish concept began testing tabletop payment solutions in 2010 and decided to deploy Ziosk shortly thereafter. Now, Ziosk tablet technology is available in the top-performing Uno Chicago Grill locations throughout the country (as well as Chili's, Red Robin and Applebee's locations).

Despite the demand for technology, the restaurant industry has been slow to add new technologies. This has been especially true in the casual dining/pizza segments. Ziosk CEO Austen Mulinder talked to PizzaMarketplace about why there is a lag in adoption, and how Uno's is leveraging the Ziosk system.

PizzaMarketplace: Why has the restaurant industry been slow to adopt new technologies compared to other industries?

Austen Mulinder: Casual dining as a whole is slow to change and slow to adopt technology. The casual dining restaurant is the last place you still give your credit card to someone and they walk away with it. QSR, hotels, gas stations, grocery stores all provide payment options where your credit card never leaves your sight or even your hand.

Additionally, restaurants don't necessarily have money to invest in high tech, so making Ziosk a frictionless purchasing decision for restaurants was imperative to being able to scale our offering.

PizzaMarketplace: What are some benefits in having this type of tabletop technology installed?

AM: In addition to providing secure payment, Ziosk allows guests to have more control over their experience. Ordering a second round when your drink is empty, playing a game while you are waiting for your food, paying your check when you are ready to go — all improve guest satisfaction resulting in increased tips and increased frequency. Promoting key items does benefit the restaurant with higher PPA; however, they see many more benefits like faster table turns, higher e-club enrollment and real time survey data.

PizzaMarketplace: Is tabletop technology, like yours, only ideal for casual dining?

AM: Casual dining has been our initial and primary focus; however, we have had an incredible amount of interest from fast casual concepts and will be launching some fast casual pilots in Q1 of 2014.

PizzaMarketplace: Does this type of tabletop technology compete with the growing mobile payments space?

AM: Mobile payments are currently in the infancy stage, but we definitely have plans to be part of the process as the technology continues to grow and adoption increases.

PizzaMarketplace: What is the cost for operators to add this type of technology?

AM: Our business model allows us to make money, help restaurants make more money and provide the devices for free. While there is a fee associated with premium services, diners who opt in to those services end up covering the cost of the network as well as generating profits. The first portion of premium services revenue go to the restaurant to recover (the) monthly fee, and additional premium services revenue is shared 50/50. It also offers the restaurant other optional services, such as analytics, for an additional charge and generates additional revenue via advertising.

Read more about tablet/mobile initiatives.

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