Chili’s Restaurants Aims to Put a Tablet on Every Table to Make You Spend More


If you’ve been in a Chili’s restaurant in the last 6 months, you may have noticed an iPad-type device on your table…  unless you have been too focused on those sweet baby back ribs!  Chili’s has spent the last six months testing the tablets that allow diners to order beverages and desserts or pay their bill without having to flag down a waiter.  From a great article on Bloomberg:

Things have gone so well at the initial 180 or so restaurants that the company decided to install the devices at most of its 1,266 U.S. restaurants by the first half of 2014.

It turns out, the tablets lead to bigger checks and more revenue for Chili’s.  According to Bloomberg, the tablets cause guests to spend more for the following reasons:

1. Leaving bigger tips by default. Despite being less reliant on waiters, diners end up tipping about 15 percent more on average, according to data from Ziosk. At Chili’s, for instance, the default suggestion on the tablet is set at 20 percent—a generosity-enhancing strategy that has also proven effective in New York City taxis, which are now equipped with back seat monitors. At the table, diners can go lower or higher than the suggested tip before paying—but unless the service was awful, who wants to be a Scrooge?

2. A bigger appetite for appetizers. Ever arrive at a restaurant starving? By eliminating the wait for a menu, tablet can boost impulse orders at the start of the meal—especially when photos of appetizers are streaming across monitors. Ziosk says tablets have increased starters sales by 20 percent at restaurants that offer them, although Chili’s hasn’t put its appetizer menu on the tablets.

3. Overcoming resistance to dessert. Those table-top tablet screens are a constant temptation. At Chili’s, pictures of molten chocolate cake and other sweets pop up while diners are still on the main course. Dessert sales are up about 20 percent as a result, the company said, and customers are ordering more coffee, too. Ziosk says that overall, its devices boosted clients’ dessert orders by about 30 percent.

4. Paying to keep the kids busy. Chili’s offers unlimited games on the tablets for $0.99, and the chain shares this revenue with Ziosk. The restaurant says about customers at one in 10 tables pay to play during the meal, providing an additional source of revenue and perhaps even a few minutes of distraction in which weary parents can finish their meal.

5. Despite the extra eating and entertainment, diners get out faster. Ziosk estimates that its system can shave up to five minutes off the meal since diners don’t have to ask for the bill or wait for change. That doesn’t sound like much, but during busy lunch hours, this can help restaurants increase traffic, says John Regal, chief marketing officer.

Will these tablets be successful in hotel restaurants?  Definitely.  If a chain like Chili’s finds that the tables are successful in increasing revenues, imagine what they could do for a hotel.  Chili’s long ago master the art of selling and heavily enforce selling and up-selling standards through mystery shopping.  Hotel restaurants do not typically do nearly as good of a job of selling as the chain restaurants.  If Chili’s can increase their appetizer sales by 20 percent with the tablets, hotels could easily achieve 50 percent.

While you are waiting for tablets in your restaurant, check out our guide on increasing room service revenues by 50 percent!