Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tablets Appearing on Tabletops at Many Chains

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tablets Appearing on Tabletops at Many Chains

Article excerpt

Remember when fiddling with electronic devices at restaurant tables was considered rude? Now computers are about to become as much a fixture on the tables of our local chain restaurants as the ketchup bottles and over-the-top chocolate desserts.

By the time I finally swiped my credit card at my tabletop tablet at Chili's in Little Falls, I had racked up $625,000 in my retirement account in The Game of Life and had spent most of my lunch creaming "Bob," my computer-generated opponent.

I sat down thinking that tabletop tablet computers could be a great way to speed up your meal, and walked out thinking they could also do exactly the opposite. After all, I lingered there because I couldn't tear myself away from the game. And the coffee I ordered via the device took almost 10 minutes to arrive.

North Jersey chain restaurant customers will soon see this kind of device far beyond Chili's. Similar ones are already at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Secaucus, where you can play trivia and games such as poker and, sometime next year, you'll be able to order food, too.

Tablets will also start appearing in our local Applebee's restaurants around December or early next year, according to Ed Choe, president of Doherty Enterprises, which owns the restaurants in Bergen and Passaic counties.

At first, you'll be able to order appetizers and desserts, re- order alcoholic drinks once a server has verified your age, and play games for a small fee, Choe said. Later, the restaurants will consider offering additional options.

"We don't want to do away with human interaction," Choe said. "We don't look at it as tablets replacing servers. I think if done right, it's a better experience for both servers as well as the guests. Certain guests may not want to use it at all. Some people feel uncomfortable with the technology."

Choe compared the tablets to airport check-in kiosks -- travelers can use them if they want, or get in line for help from a real person if they don't. "It's really a convenience factor for guests," he said. …

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