Maybe you've seen these tabletop tablets out and about at certain restaurants. Our first time using one for ordering and bill payment occurred recently at the Applebee's in New Hartford. The experience gave us some food for thought, especially after some interesting feedback about the device from one of the waiters on staff.

First, a quick explanation of the technology and background of the tabletop tablet. It's similar to an iPad, it's called a Presto, and it's created by a company called E La Carte. The Applebee's Grill & Bar chain uses them nationwide, including their Central New York locations.

The one we used was equipped to process our orders for drinks, appetizers, and desserts, but not entrees. It also offered us the opportunity to pay our bill, call a server, or play trivia.

The tablets are designed to bring efficiency to restaurants by allowing for quicker turnover rates and the ability to serve more customers in a given day. There's also a bigger potential profit for restaurants, as early studies showed a 10% increase in bill totals at tables where a Presto was used by a customer.

But, does the wait staff share in the increased profits?

One server told us the device allowed customers to automatically designate a tip by percentage (as opposed to figuring out the tip in one's head) and he told us he had regularly seen tips in the 10-15% range.

Also, the advent of devices like the Presto has reduced the size of a restaurant's staff, thereby eliminating jobs, and providing a hedge for franchise owners against the possibility of an increase in the minimum wage.

So, is this interactive technology here to stay? Is it a good or bad thing? Have you experienced these tablets at other restaurants?

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