While Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar has applied to trademark the term “No Tech Tuesday,” the company is reassuring guests it won’t confiscate their digital technology.

“Applebee’s has always and will continue to allow customers to use technology in our restaurants as much or as little as they choose to do so,” spokesman Dan Smith said in an interview Monday.

Reports on the “No Tech Tuesday” trademark surfaced late last week, but Smith said the application, made in the past 12 months, was a routine business practice of the Kansas City, Mo.-based casual-dining division of DineEquity Inc.

Smith said the application was made in “the normal course of research and development for various phrases that may be of interest in pursuing in multiple channels in our business.”

Smith added that Applebee’s often files for trademark protection amid creative discussions of marketing phrases and potential menu-item descriptions. Smith said the “No Tech Tuesday” application wouldn’t directly affect customers’ technology use.

“It is not any signal toward future plans for in-restaurant activation,” Smith said. “In other words, we are not going to be asking guests to check their cell phones at the door or to turn them off. We’re not going to be muting our TVs or turning them off. This has zero implications for the rollout of our tablet technology, which is continuing in earnest.”

The trademark application was filed as many casual-dining brands, including Chili’s Grill & Bar and Buffalo Wild Wings, rolled out consumer-facing tabletop tablets in their locations. Most recently, Darden Restaurants Inc.’s Olive Garden division said it would test the devices.

In December, Applebee’s said it would roll out tabletop technology to its U.S. system of more than 1,860 restaurants over the year, beginning in late spring.

Smith said Applebee’s is installing the tabletop devices “in earnest in all of our restaurants,” but he would not comment on how far along the company was in the process.

The company is also anticipating enhancements to the technology after the devices go into units.

“We are certainly looking at other pieces of our broader technology strategy, which includes online ordering, mobile app functionality and certainly the tablets, when they are installed in our restaurants,” Smith said.

The devices now allow customers to pay at the table, order appetizers and desserts, place drink refills, play games and sign up for the brand’s email club, Smith said.
 
“In future months, the technology is such that there is a robust suite of functionality that you will see develop,” he added, emphasizing that the use of the tablets is decided by the customer’s desire to opt in. “If the tablets don’t appeal to the guest, you can still come in and have the same experience you’ve always had at an Applebee’s restaurant.”

Smith said Applebee’s wants to make all guests — both plugged in and unplugged — happy.

“We serve over a million people a day, and you can imagine many of those people come into our restaurants and want to stay fully connected to their technology,” he concluded. “They will be able to do that.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless