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E la Carte Serves Up Big Gains with Presto Tablets in Restaurants

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September 25, 2014

E la Carte Serves Up Big Gains with Presto Tablets in Restaurants

By Steve Anderson
Contributing TMCnet Writer

Ever wonder what it would be like to go to a restaurant where you talked directly to the kitchen? Instead of needing the intermediary of wait staff, you simply place your meal order directly with the kitchen itself, and then wait for the food to be brought. For some, this sounds like a marvel of efficiency, and that's just what's going on with E la Carte and its Presto line of tablets, changing the way food in restaurants is ordered and paid for.

Given that “Presto” itself is a word that reportedly means “quickly” in several languages, it becomes reasonably clear just what it is Presto looks to accomplish. It actually offers up a few options, useful at several points of the dining process. First, of course, is that it offers a means to order a meal. Once the meal order has been placed, the food is brought out later by humans as normal, but in the interim, users get access to an array of games to play while waiting for the food to arrive. Then, once the meal is finished, users can pay for the meal right at the table itself, though this is likely meant for credit and debit card users only. An option to pay by cash, meanwhile, is also included, though this may impact time spent.

Presto is the invention of a former waiter, E la Carte's chief executive Rajat Suri, who waited tables at a Cambridge pub after dropping out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a bid to learn the business. Learn Suri did, and the end result was Presto, a system designed to navigate what Suri calls a “...tough business...”, and in turn, drive increased sales, which is the means to keep that restaurant surviving.

Indeed, Presto is paying dividends. The average for companies installing Presto systems notes a five percent increase in total sales, as well as an improved table turnover of between seven and 10 minutes. Those wanting to try out a Presto system won't go wanting for places to try; a host of Applebee's locations in the United States reportedly have the Presto system, and Genghis Grill, among others, is likewise in the fray. Other tablet systems are also involved, as Chili's is in the action with the Ziosk line of tablets. Reports suggest E la Carte is already seeing sales in double-digit millions, and by the end of the year will process nearly $1 billion in total transactions.

Though this might seem like the death knell for human wait staff, so far, wait staff is enthusiastic about the use of Presto tablets, as it suggests a gratuity of 20 percent for those who pay with a card, much in the same way that New York City cabs have a 20 percent minimum tip. That might irk some who'd sooner have control over the amount of a tip, but then, there does seem to be the cash option for those who'd rather a tip be a reflection of quality of service rather than some kind of extra bill.

It's an exciting idea, and many users would likely prefer the option to proceed more rapidly through a meal instead of sitting and waiting for wait staff to come and bring a check or bring back change or anything like that. It's got some great potential to make a meal more interactive, more efficient, and overall, more fun, and that's worth spending some cash on a night out.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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