Buffalo Wild Wings welcomes tabletop tablets


How about a game of Angry Birds to keep you satiated while waiting for an order of wings?

Buffalo Wilds Wings announced it is implementing tabletop touch tablets to its North American locations, allowing users to order food and drinks, play an assortment of multiplayer games, pay the bill and even request a channel change on a TV.

The Android-based Samsung Galaxy tablets – a blow to Apple, as it tries to assert its tablet dominance with the iPad, Pioneer Press notes – are currently in about 150 corporate-owned locations. The company's goal is to have every single restaurant in North America outfitted with the devices by the end of 2015.

According to the Pioneer Press, the tech company installing the tablets says the Samsung devices are cheaper than Apple's products, but fit the restaurant's needs just as well.

The tablets will come with free options for customers, as well as paid games for those interested in what the company calls a "premium experience." Buffalo Wild Wings is partnering with NTN Buzztime Inc., which previously had Playmaker trivia consoles in the restaurants. The tablets will replace those.

It is a multi-year agreement.

Ben Nelsen, vice president of guest experience and innovation, says the company wants to take its "personal entertainment platform to the next level."

"Our intention is that the suite of features will evolve as we continue to listen to our Guests and bring them the best possible in-restaurant experience," he adds.

Buffalo Wild Wings is following in the digital footsteps of some other restaurants.

According to Forbes, Chili's announced last September it planned to install tablets at every table in its 823 restaurants by March of this year. The tablets, also Android operated, allow for drink refills, desserts, and games – but you still need a member of the wait staff for appetizers and entrees, Forbes said.

And Applebee's, just a couple months later, announced a similar plan, Time reported. There, you can pay, order appetizers and desserts and – of course – play games. But entrees still go through a waiter or waitress. The Applebee's tablets are also Android-based, and the company wants them in all 1,680 of its U.S. restaurants – that is nearly 100,000 tablets, Time notes.

Slate wondered what, exactly, the tablet takeover might mean for employees there. Applebee's said the tablets will not alter staffing levels; Chili's was described by Slate as "optimistic" the tablets would lead to more revenue due to impulse purchases and table gaming.

An earlier Slate piece actually looked at the math of it through the company E La Carte – the Palo Alto-based startup which Applebee's picked to be its tablet provider.

The details:

"Each console goes for $100 per month. If a restaurant serves meals eight hours a day, seven days a week, it works out to 42 cents per hour per table—making the Presto cheaper than even the very cheapest waiter. Moreover, no manager needs to train it, replace it if it quits, or offer it sick days. And it doesn't forget to take off the cheese, walk off for 20 minutes, or accidentally offend with small talk, either."

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