on August 02, 2013 at 12:55 PM, updated August 02, 2013 at 12:56 PM
We’ve all experienced the negatives of dining out. The empty glass or simply waiting for the server to order that appetizer or dessert. When dining with friends, splitting the bill can be more painful than it should be, then there’s the potential concern of identity theft after handing your credit card to the server. Your dining out experience is about to get better.
The Red Robin locations around the midstate recently deployed some technology that they’re hoping will solve those negatives. The new devices look and work a lot like a tablet computer many of us are currently using at work or at home, and are positioned on every table.
To explore how they work and to see if it enhances the dining experience, I recently visited my local Red Robin with my daughter and some family friends.
Shortly after being seated we were introduced to the new “Ziosk” terminal located on our table by our waitress Megan. She explained that we could order an appetizer or desert from the device or from her. There is also the ability to order select drinks (non-alcoholic) or order a drink refill (including alcoholic) from the device.
She also explained to us the device has games which we could play. For $1.99 the gameplay is unlimited until you pay the bill. There is also an option to play music which ranges from $.50 to $.99 per song which we did not try.
The “Ziosks” are not intended to replace the server’s relationship with the table, in fact it includes a button to “Call Server.” Pushing the button activates a flashing light on top of the device, which a server can notice while waiting on other tables.
“Ziosks” are a lot more than a gaming or paging system. They also provide an added level of security by allowing you to pay at the table.
Chris Kakavoulas, the General Manager at the Paxton Town Center location, said “Using it right now is for the convenience and security of the guest”. Chris Defrain, the Vice President of Accounting and Restaurant Support for the Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, which owns the Red Robins in the midstate, told me that three of every four credit card purchases are swiped through the Ziosk terminals. Defrain added that it “put the guest in charge of their dining experience” by not forcing them to wait for their server to pay the bill.
The guest has the ability of paying when he’s ready, instead of waiting for the server to take the credit card and then bring it back. Simply swipe your credit card, sign the touch screen with your fingertip and get a receipt printed on the spot or e-mailed to you.
The device does have a camera, but Defrain told me that the camera is not active at their locations. The “Ziosk” web-site mentions that the device is capable of capturing moments using the built in camera, allowing customers to upload the photos to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Since it is not active, I am not sure how it works, but if you are uncomfortable with the device, you can ask your server to take the device off the table and enjoy your dinner the old fashioned way, tech free.
To purchase a song or the games package you are simply prompted for an “OK,” and then it’s added to your bill. So if you do allow your kids to use the device, explain to them that to play the games or music costs money and whether you want them to or not.
Overall the “Ziosk” made our dining experience easier, more secure and more enjoyable for us all. Until the food arrived the kids took turns playing games, we ordered refills and even called the server using the device. When we were ready, we split the bill, added the tip, paid and had the receipt e-mailed. Then the kids got their balloons and we headed home.