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TGI Friday’s equips servers with tablets to streamline customer experience

Restaurant chain TGI Friday’s is equipping servers with Microsoft tablets to help make the customer experience more streamlined and convenient.

Along with Microsoft’s 8-inch tablets, the new Fridays Service Style technology, powered by Windows 8.1, will allow servers to carry tablets from table to table to take orders and respond promptly to guest requests. If the process performs well, the execution could represent a growing trend in multichannel experiences.

“TGI Friday’s has previously tested mobile wallet-like app experiences and kudos to them for continuing to utilize mobile to augment their dining experience,” said Derrick Lin, mobile strategist at Resource/Ammirati. “With the new addition, we can expect information to be more efficiently exchanged between the servers and the kitchen and in turn reduce the amount of times servers return to tables.

“This can have a positive impact on the dining experience since it will not only improve efficiency but also allow more time for servers to interact with the customers,” he said. “In addition to the obvious and immediate impact, with the digital/mobile platform in place, TGI Friday’s could open the door to new types of interactions with customers that are unprecedented in the restaurant industry.”

All about the customer
TGI Friday’s claims its goal has always been taking care of the customer and believes the use of these Microsoft tablets will continue to improve the customer experience.

The devices use Windows 8.1, running Oracle’s Micros Restaurant Enterprise Solution 5.4 on the Dell Venue mTablet E-Series mobile point-of-sale devices.

Microsoft believes many restaurant technology solutions rely on proprietary hardware or custom ruggedized devices, which are built to withstand the abuse of a kitchen environment. Furthermore, the tech company asserts these solutions can be expensive and take large amounts of time to develop and execute.

Therefore, Microsoft believes Oracle’s Micros RES 5.4 allows TGI Friday’s to manage the various aspects of running a restaurant, from tableside to traffic, all from one solution and in a much more cost-effective way. Additionally, the solution aims to put the technology in the hands of Fridays, preserving the experience they can offer guests, rather than using tabletop technology that would reduce their interactions.

The use of tablets could also improve the table wait time and help regulate the pace of orders sent to the kitchen.

Restaurants including DineEquity’s Applebee’s also utilize tablets in their restaurants.  In Applebee’s locations, tablets are placed on tables, enabling guests to complete their checkout process themselves.

Of course, these experiences are only successful when restaurants execute them properly. More specifically, the tablets must be operable and interactive for each guest.

Initially, TGI Friday’s completed a pilot in six cities in Texas and Minnesota. The restaurant chain plans to deploy the tablet experience in 80 additional restaurants with 2,000 more tablets by March.

Channeling mobile
TGI Friday’s is a restaurant chain that has long involved its brand in mobile.

In 2013, TGI Friday’s aimed to bolster its mobile application usage by incorporating the medium into its new “Why Not” marketing campaign.

Through the initiative, the company looked to drive brand awareness and get consumers excited about its many offerings. Recently, TGI Friday’s rolled out a mobile application to better reach tech-savvy consumers (see story).

Also in 2013, TGI Fridays delved further in mobile advertising with an effort that highlighted a summer campaign to find the next big musical star.

According to TGI Fridays, the campaign’s use of mobile advertising built on the restaurant’s launch of its mobile app from the year prior. The company ran expandable mobile ads within Cosmopolitan’s mobile site (see story).

“Opportunities with the use of tablets are abundant,” Mr. Lin said. “TGI Friday’s can provide more detail and engaging information for their customers.

“With the large screen, special menu items can now be featured as images and videos and not dry description recited by servers,” he said.

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York