Tampa Bay-area restaurant menus go digital - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa Bay-area restaurant menus go digital

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Some Tampa Bay-area restaurants are going digital. Some Tampa Bay-area restaurants are going digital.
Some Tampa Bay-area restaurants are going digital. Some Tampa Bay-area restaurants are going digital.
Some Tampa Bay-area restaurants are going digital. Some Tampa Bay-area restaurants are going digital.
Some Tampa Bay-area restaurants are going digital. Some Tampa Bay-area restaurants are going digital.
Some Tampa Bay-area restaurants are going digital. Some Tampa Bay-area restaurants are going digital.
When you walk into your neighborhood Applebee's next year, your table will be a little more digitally connected.  Earlier this month, the restaurant chain, which has more than 1,800 locations, announced it will install 100,000 tablet-style menus at each table.

The tablet-menus are scheduled to be in place by the end of 2014.  Guests will be able to add menu items to their order, pay for their bill, and play games on these tablets.

Tampa-based restaurant chain Carmel Cafe has used tablet menus since its first restaurant opened three years ago.

"You can touch the iPad. Visualize the product," said Terry Ryan, CEO of Carmel Cafe.

Carmel Cafe worked with another Tampa business, Menu Pad, to create the operating system they use at each table.

"The consumer can basically order off of an iPad, right at the table. It goes right to the POS system, back to the kitchen and bar," said Vic Lafita, MenuPad's CEO.

More local news: Lakeland man buys iPad, finds only books in box


While it may appear that this technology-infused system takes away the interaction with the server, Carmel Cafe says it is actually the opposite.

"What we've seen at Carmel is that the way we work with the training, it gives servers more time at the table with the guest to be able to talk about food, to be able to talk about wine," said Ryan.

Carmel Cafe owners and guests have noticed that the dining process is more efficient.  A diner no longer needs to flag down a server for another drink. The tablet allows each guest to order one or call a server to the table.

Ryan says some of his servers actually make more in tips because of the increased interaction time with the diners.

Nicki Pizzo likes the control she has over the meal during a business lunch.

"I'm not necessarily there to be wining and dining for a long time on end, so I'm in control.  I can easily order what I want, what I need, and I can get that come to me right away," said Pizzo.

In Applebee's pilot program, they also found that reduced transaction time provided a better experience to the consumer.

At this point, Applebee's says it does not plan to lower staff because of the tablets.

Ryan adds that while the younger generations have grown up with technology, his Sarasota restaurant has the oldest clientele, and they were more comfortable with the menu pads than the rest of Carmel's locations.

Restaurants hope by adding familiar technology to the dining experience, it will keep customers informed, happy, and returning to the table.

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