(Continued from page 1)

How will the rollout be managed?

Our intention is to be in all 823 company-owned restaurants by the first half of 2014. We have a significant and comprehensive cross-functional team here at Chili’s made up of all the departments that need to be involved — training, IT, marketing to develop the content and operators — who are constantly helping us think about what we didn’t think about. Together we have come up with a strategy, a template, to roll out it.

How about your franchise system?

I’m focused on the company-owned restaurants. We have a couple of franchisee partners that are engaging with the technology. But at this point, the others are learning or sharing their learnings. They will make the decision on whether or not they will participate.

How can you accommodate more units per table?

Some units sit at the bar and are not tied to a table. If you have kids like I do, when you go you might need an extra unit. My twins will go crazy if they don’t each have their own. We can do that. We can train for that too. It wasn’t without its bugs from a training perspective. Early on we had daily calls and later weekly calls to hear feedback from our team members and what guests would say.

What percentage of customers pay at the tabletop unit?

Fifty percent of the guests sitting at the tables are paying from the device. It helps facilitate their experience. We’re especially seeing it at lunch. It makes sense when they want a faster experience at lunch.

Why do you limit the amount of items the guest can order on the device?

We want to showcase the best of that day. If you start to overburden it with content, it doesn’t become easy to navigate. But one of the biggest [reasons] is that we still want lots of interaction between our server and the person at the table. This is meant to make the experience better, not to take over it.

Overall, how do you view the tabletop technology innovations?

I tell our operators it is probably one of the most exciting things to happen in merchandising in a very long time. We can showcase food and provide convenience.

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