A combination of hardware and software that enables restaurant patrons to order and pay on a tablet at the table is bucking the trend toward paying on smartphones, one analyst says.

But besides handling transactions, the table-mounted devices from HubWorks Interactive LLC entertain customers while they await their food, Sam Winter, the company’s vice president of technology, tells ISO&Agent Weekly.

“The can post pictures on Facebook (or) watch ESPN,” Winter says. “They can even play online games.”

His Coeur d'Alene, Idaho-based software company is testing the tablet technology with “four or five” national restaurant chains that include Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings Inc., Winter says. Eventually, ISOs may have an opportunity to offer it to restaurants and bars, he notes.

The company fits the tablets with card readers and places them in a case it designed, Winter says.

“A battery pack allows it to run all day,” he notes.

Besides ordering and paying at their convenience, diners can use the tablets to view entertainment or even to play online games, Winter says.

Coupons and discounts offered on the tabs can promote upselling and highlight specials, he maintains.

The technology also relieves servers of many of their duties, leaving them mainly to deliver orders to the table, Winter says. Thus servers can handle a larger numbr of talbles, he notes.

In addition, customers tend to spend less time in the restaurants because they never have to wait to place an order or to pay, which makes tables turn more quickly and raises profits.

HubWorks faces a major three-month project each time it integrates its software with another type of point-of-sale system, Winter says. However, once it completes the integration with a particular POS system, it can replicate the work with that system in other restaurants relatively easily, he notes.

Although many POS systems fall into about a dozen categories, the company encounters as many as 50 different systems altogether, Winter says.

Hubworks and NCR Aloha, Duluth, Ga.-based NCR Corp.’s restaurant technology arm, announced May 3 that they had signed an agreement to incorporate Hubworks technology with NCR Aloha POS systems.

In general, the integration challenge has limited HubWorks to working with large chains in the beginning, he notes. However, the company intends to offer its technology to smaller businesses in the future and will consider using independent sales organizations to help distribute it.

Still, one analyst doubts that customers will want to use tablets when they could just as well employ the smartphones they’re already carrying.

Using a similar system at Stacked, a Los Angeles restaurant chain, apparently seemingly failed to impress Gil B. Luria, senior vice president at Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities LLC.

“I don’t think this is where the technology is going,” Luria tells PaymentsSource. “If you’re going to pay at the table, you can do it on your own phone.”

Consumers would not hesitate to use a smartphone application for a particular restaurant, he says.

“I already have the (smart)phone with me,” Luria says. “A few seconds to download an app is not difficult.”

 

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