What is in this article?:
- Chili‚Äôs details rollout of tabletop tablets
- Managing the rollout
The chain saw sales of certain menu items increase during a test of the devices.
Edithann Ramey, Chili’s vice president of marketing.
Chili’s Grill & Bar said Tuesday it would roll out tabletop tablets to all 823 U.S. company-owned restaurants by the middle of 2014, giving guests the option of ordering, playing games and paying at the table.
After a five-month test of various tabletop devices in 28 Chili’s restaurants, executives of the casual-dining brand said dessert sales increased as much as 20 percent and sales of items like coffee saw sizable jumps. Test markets included Jacksonville, Fla.; San Diego; and Dallas.
Franchisees in the nearly 1,600-unit chain are making the decision to include the devices in their own locations, Edithann Ramey, Chili’s vice president of marketing, said in an interview Monday. Some franchise groups have been testing similar devices since 2011.
Each Chili’s unit will have about 50 of the seven-inch tabletop devices, the company said. Chili’s chose Dallas-based Ziosk as its vendor.
The tabletop devices can take menu orders, accept credit card payments and let customers play 99-cent video games, the revenue from which is shared between the vendor and the brand. The chain, owned by Dallas-based Brinker International Inc., currently has tabletop tablets in about 200 locations.
Ramey spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about the rollout.
How will the tablets positively impact business?
These units [tablets] are supposed to do something for the business and something for the consumer. We wanted them to be menu merchandisers. We wanted them to be entertainment units. We are a place where people come to connect and spend time with each other. You can play games on them. You can view the news. The most exciting things are around menu merchandising and educating the consumer on what we have to offer. There’s also the ability to order the food and beverages from it. They can control their own destiny. The whole experience improves if they can pay at the table as quickly as possible and order as they wanted to.
What were the results from the test?
We saw increases in PPA [per person average check]. People are buying more food and add-ons like desserts and drinks at the table. They don’t order their first alcoholic drinks through the machine. We have to ID them. After that, they can order a second. We saw double-digit increases in dessert sales during test.
What were other benefits?
We depend on our email database to drive a significant amount of our traffic. We leverage it as a way to talk with the consumer and get them excited about new innovation in the brand. We’re constantly collecting email addresses. So from an Email Club perspective, we saw a material increase in signups over the period of the test.
And what about the games?
The gaming part is really nice, because it generated shared revenue, which was the cherry on top.
Did it offset the costs of the unit?
We don’t typically talk about how one works for the other, but we will tell you we don’t do anything that doesn’t return on the investment. We feel good about the installation, what it did for us and its ability to drive revenue for the company.
About 10 percent of tables buy a 99-cent video game. How is that charged and what other content do you foresee?
It’s a onetime charge, and you can play all you want. Content can be sky-is-the-limit. … Right now, we’re thinking about our gift-card season, for example. … Potentially, you could have a video right on the Ziosk that talks about gift cards.