Look at the bright side, you wont have to leave (much) of a tip, if any.

Score one for the machines. On Tuesday, Applebee’s announced plans to install a tablet at every table in its 1,860 restaurants across the United States. Customers will be able to use the devices to order food, pay the bill, and ignore their dining companions by playing video games.

Chili’s unveiled basically the same plan three months ago. But that doesn’t mean Applebee’s hasn’t been plotting this move for years. In fact, Applebee’s was the name that came up when my former Slate colleague Annie Lowrey first wrote about the tablets-for-restaurants idea in April 2011. Her story focused on Palo Alto-based startup E La Carte, which is in fact Applebee’s partner on the just-announced deal. Chili’s opted for a rival vendor, Ziosk. Applebee’s went light on details in announcing the terms of its deal.

Of course these businesses are saying they won’t use the tablets to replace employees. Announcing layoffs along with the tablet move would be begging for a backlash. The fact is, if the tablets work, they’ll make the ordering process more efficient and cut the amount of human labor that these restaurants require. At that point, do you suppose they’ll keep the extra waiters around out of charity

Obama wants to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour, not that I disagree, as long as it’s understood that this will be the inevitable result. Ah, who am I kidding, it was probably inevitable regardless.

  1. Gassy Noell says:

    Meh, now maybe they can replace real food with the swill they serve now.

  2. Eric says:

    Can you imagine how dirty these things will be by the time everyone orders desert?

    • Poo Poo Head says:

      I’m guessing you haven’t been to an Applebees or a Chili’s or even a Fridays (or whatever the popular name is).

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      Adults and children eating with their hands without washing their hands before sitting down to eat. Then touching the screens.

      This is a legitimate public safety concern.

      • CrankyImposter says:

        Everything is a public safety concern. From the table you’re sitting at, to the silverware and glasses you’re using. Heck, even touching the door when you open it or making a bathroom run before or during a meal.

        I will actually enjoy tablets to make and pay for my meal. I could use my knuckles as opposed to my fingertips while utilizing the tablet. Moreover, I use Wet Wipes or Purell when I go out to eat since I’m aware of germs.

  3. dusanmal says:

    Yes, this is a free market response to a threat of forcing business to pay more for the labor than it is worth on the labor market. You can’t cheat forces of free market. They will reply automatically and inevitably.

    • Dallas says:

      This will be as successful as the fat free potato chip.

      • deowll says:

        Baked chips are still in schools cause the government has told its property to submit.

        • Dallas says:

          Baked chips are not the fat free shit that customers want but will never buy. Very similar to the iWAITER talked about here.

    • ECA says:

      If that was true, they would be shipping people from pakistan to the USA to be the servers and cooks..

      • ECA says:

        What do you do AFTER…
        You have CUT every extra emplyee you can..
        Cutting HOURS, below levels REQUIRED, for full time wages and benefits..

        WHEN you want more profits..

        • deowll says:

          Or when it’s what it takes to survive. As one fast food joint franchise owner noted his health care costs were going to exceed his profits so something was going to have to give.

  4. deegee says:

    Maybe with these gizmos at least my order will be correct… 😉

    • Poo Poo Head says:

      That’s the idea. Just like health care, it’s supposed to make everything better!

  5. Dallas says:

    I’ll avoid any restaurant that replaces customer service with a tablet. I already avoid Applebees because they discriminate against gays so no big changes on my end.

    • MikeN says:

      So why support Obama, who supported TrayVon Martin after he tried to kill a guy man, or at least someone he thought was gay. Obama would rather gay people die to be martyrs to the cause than have a gun to defend themselves.

  6. Beavis says:

    uh-huhh – he said, “no big changes on my end.”

  7. Poo Poo Head says:


    Obama wants to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour, not that I disagree, as long as it’s understood that this will be the inevitable result. Ah, who am I kidding, it was probably inevitable regardless.

    Only NINE?! Have you looked at what it costs to LIVE in America?!!! If Obama gave a damn and didn’t already live in his ivory tower he’d be railing against the oil companies – not so much the health care crooks.

    It’s not too hard to see the slight of hand act going on here. Produce something like oil (even if you live indoors you DO need oil) and mark it up like nine-THOUSAND percent, it’s not too hard to keep your profits hidden from a group of buffoons like our Congressmen who can’t even agree to balance a (unlimited) budget. You might think that someone like the President might be wise to this and try to do something. That is, until you realize that he too is nothing but another sleazeball LAWYER who can’t add numbers in the real world.

    Try not to look too hard because if you do, you’ll see that the American economy really revolves around oil. So when you raise the minimum wage rather than help bring costs down it will just be a matter of time before we do it all over again. The real reason we don’t bring costs down is because of the Wall Street business philosophy where they constantly have to be showing a profit – that’s the REAL problem!

    …And good luck with bringing costs down now that we have another mandated TAX!

    • ECA says:

      Over the last Many years there has been screaming about TO MUCH government..
      but what happens when THINGS dont get done?
      FDA and other 3 latter words, can only inspect about 8% of food facilities per year.. And you wonder why we have SALMONELLA outbreaks..
      Its generally the CORPS screaming, and the people listening..
      Think about imports, into the states that are Supposed to be Watched for incoming BOMBS.

      Over the last 30+ years, The wages at the top have gone up GREAT levels. And its all gone to TOP wages(not below) and to STOCKS..
      IF Min wage had the same affects, we would be making $21 per hour…(yes I looked it up and posted in Cage match)

    • deowll says:

      The point is that only a tiny fraction of people have minimum wage jobs. Something like 4.7% in 2012. About half of them are 25 or younger. Nobody should stay in a minimum wage job unless they are mentally challenged and have a care giver. I see these jobs as being ultra valuable for young people to get some on the job experience before moving on while giving them a chance to pick up a little money.

  8. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    Outsourcing and automation = Death of the Middle Class.

    Heres another article to the same point: “How 13 people can produce enough cotton for 9.4 million T-shirts” /// Kinda staggering accomplishment keeping in mind we fought a Civil War years ago to stop slave labor for what is done now without people (sic). How long until we can do it without water? Or maybe just by using waste water or plants that make their own fertilizer so we stop killing the Gulf waters?

    The future is so bright, I gotta wear shades. Sure hope I can afford a pair when the time comes.

    ….. but seriously folks, Its a real challenge: what to do when organically… “for real” a society has no need for hooman labor? or not sufficient need to keep everyone employed.?

    I guess the point is, we are looking at that now?

      • Go Figure says:

        Interesting. OK, so I did the math…

        I found out that a bale of cotton weighs about 500 pounds. At 13,000 bales per year, that’s 6.5 million pounds of cotton.

        So, 9.4 million T-shirts would weigh about 11 ounces each. Sounds about right.

        And 13 people and their machines working a 5-day workweek, each need to process just under a ton of cotton per day.

        This should keep the Amazon delivery drones very busy!

        • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

          I won’t do the math but blah,blah per day so the question is how many days? And regardless, I think the “pick season” is rather limited and the machines run non-stop. Sure seems to me that any operation would have more people than harvesters?

          Something doesn’t add up, just half looking at it. Until just this Black Friday, I used to think I preferred 100% Cotton fabric. But I checked my favorite shirts/clothes and I have a total mix–I can’t tell the difference between “treated cotton” and certain polyester mixes. I can tell straight polyester unless it is fleece fabric etc. The future is still plastics unless nano-graphenes and sterenes take over….. which they will.

          Yep, dat ol’ future gettin brighter and brighter as our math scores fall.

          • Tim says:

            Jos. A. Bank is made out of people.

          • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

            Thats true Timmay but in the weave and warp of things, one sales clerk has a job and 2 are laid off freeloaders on welfare because I order on line.

    • jbenson2 says:

      Where are the college grads going to work now?

      No more 15% to 20% tips.

      What next? Will Applebees expect the customer to pick up their food at the kitchen serving window?

    • RS says:

      Guess you need to start a business and get on the right side of the trend.

  9. LibertyLover says:

    Chili’s tried to get me to pay my bill with their new tablet at the table.

    I looked at the waitress and said in a voice loud enough to be heard for nearly half the store, “You want me to slide my card through a machine that will wirelessly transmit my credit card information? I could break your encryption in 10 minutes. How fast do you think a real thief would take?”

    She ran it the old fashioned way.

    They were removing them from the tables before I made it out the door.

    Don’t know if they put them back yet.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      Good advise there. We read ALL the time about some hacker getting passwords or stealing millions of dollars in some kind of electronic scam.

      How fragile are all the banking systems to a massive electronic theft scheme making such systems “basically” unusable? Is the SciFi or in the cards?

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      The only advantage with paying by using a table tablet is a visual inspection of the card scanner on the tablet as opposed to a waiter taking a credit/debit card to an unseen point-of-sale terminal.

      Either Chile’s or Applebee’s table tablets use Android as the operating system. Unfortunately, someone will try to hack the wireless networking or try to install unauthorized software on the device.

  10. So What? says:

    So after I use the tablet to order my food who will bring it to the table? Ooops.

    • So What? says:

      Additionally, who will bring my drink order? What if I want to pay with cash or check? Who will bus and reset the table? What if the touch screen is down who will bring a paper menu and take the order? What if the person is disabled and cannot use the touch screen?

      Basically this will fail like a four year old on their first pair of roller skates.

      • Poo Poo Head says:

        Haven’t you ever seen a Jetsons cartoon?!!!

        ROBOTS, dude. ROBOTS!

        • So What? says:

          Robots are not nearly as interesting to watch as the cute redhead college girl in tight jeans.

    • Dallas says:

      Walk up soda fountain like you currently do. No change

      • So What? says:

        Soda fountain, are you hanging out at the malt shop pining for Pedro?

  11. CrankyGeeksFan says:

    Applebee’s and Chile’s say that they will not change staffing levels because of the tablets. They say customers order more appetizers and drinks with the tablets.

    Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari & Chuck E. Cheeze Pizza Time Theater, started uWink – a chain of restaurants with a similar table tablet concept 8 or 9 years ago. The restaurants closed, but the technology division was spun off. I don’t think Applebee’s or Chile’s is using uWink’s tech.

    Separately, of the 540,000 bank tellers in the U.S., one-third receive public assistance totaling almost $900 million per year. That figure includes $105 million in food stamps.
    Source: The Labor Center at the University of California Berkeley.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      Thats interesting. Seems like “many” people ((LOW WAGE earners)) are on some sort of assistance. Calls into mind to me the idea of income support mechanisms thru the tax system–ie specific help to those who work at low wages and file tax returns?

      Some guy …. I think with the last name of Wilson… presented an anti-poverty program where every adult in America got a minimum income thru such a program. The benefits were many such as strengthening family units and ((I might have this wrong)) it wouldn’t cost much more than current poverty programs as the administrative/fraud cost were almost nil.

      Fun to think about it…. what to do?? Start wars to use up the excess population?

      We got some challenges to face up to. Poor teatards.

      • Tim says:

        I would think the AlGore EarthFirst non-Deniers would rather focus their energies on creating a patentable, transgenic, glowing chimeric horror that turns those people into ethanol. Painfully.

        Just sayin’

      • Poo Poo Head says:

        Let’s see…

        With a nation debt LAST YEAR (which is a CBO number) at something like $7,517,000,000,000 (7.5 trillion) and a population of about 320,000,000 (320 million) people, let’s just lob off those last 6 zeros in each statistic and the ratio is something like 7.5 million dollars for every 320 people. Divide it out (7.5M / 320) and it’s about 23 thousand dollars that every man woman and child owes the government to pay off the debt (actually more since my numbers have been rounded down). And that’s assuming there isn’t an interest on that debt to consider too!

        Now, with 50 work weeks per year (52 if you look at a calendar but then most people do get 2 weeks off) where each week is 40 hours, that’s about 2000 hours a year (50 * 40). These are very rough numbers and let’s not forget about the unintended Obamacare consequences that will have a majority of people working 30 hours a week or LESS! So if you earn say 10 bucks an hour which isn’t even the PROPOSED minimum wage, you can already see that your yearly income at 40 hours a week is about $20K (10 * 2000) — which isn’t even enough to pay the government.

        Now consider this health care fiasco where even democrats admit there will be an additional 1.7 trillion added to the debt (which is a very conservative number), you can begin to see that there is a very big problem looming.

        So to recap, 1.7 + 7.5 = 9.2! In other words, get ready for at least a 9.2 TRILLION DOLLAR debt which works out to nearly 30 THOUSAND DOLLARS YOU – AND YOU ALONE – OWE THE GOVERNMENT!

        So if you’re worrying that your minimum wage job is going to be taken over by robots then it’s pretty clear that you have fallen for the oldest trick in the book or can’t think or can’t do math!

  12. bobdobbs says:

    I DEMAND 15$ AN HOUR!!!!!

    What do you mean they are replacing me with a computer?

    • Poo Poo Head says:

      Let’s just assume there were no computers and we still lived in an agriculture based society (horse & buggy era).

      What good are you?! What skills do you have? What relevant experience do you have? IOW, how can you earn money or help your company make a profit?! (See a problem yet?)

  13. Ron says:

    The solution is simple, as Adam says, OPT OUT.

    Also, be aware that all credit card transactions are logged by the IRS.

    Pay cash or barter for good and services, avoid all corporate controlled establishments if you actually want to make a change.

    • Poo Poo Head says:

      Opting out of the health insurance isn’t really much of an “option” now that it’s law. You will be penalized for it and eventually it could cost you dearly. Right now, the penalty is something like a max of $98. But the next year (2015) it will go up — a LOT! About the only real way out is to live in poverty where you might qualify for free Medicaid. (Funny how a once poor black man from Chicago has now made this culture of poorness part of our legal system.)

      Now, you may have heard that the IRS is forbidden from coming after your assets like bank accounts, credit cards, etc. for health insurance reasons. Of course, the IRS can seize the very shirt off your back for nearly any OTHER reason, just not health insurance. And if you don’t think that’s ever going to change then you haven’t been around very long or aren’t very bright.

      Of course, I do share your dislike for the IRS. But one other thing you don’t seem to understand is that the IRS does not “log” or monitor all credit card use either. Trans Union, Equifax and Experian do it. That’s not to say that the IRS won’t go to one or all three of those private companies to find out if you have a credit – especially if you owe money. Just know that the IRS doesn’t do it as directly as you seem to believe.

      … And if you really wanted to help make a change you’d get and use as many credit cards as you could too! However, you don’t win this battle if you don’t pay the entire balance each and every time you got the bill — not just the minimum payment but the whole damn thing.

      Credit card companies can actually loose money if more people used them but then paid it all back within the payment period (which is typically something like every 25 days). It’s when you don’t pay the entire balance when they win. And they are winning – big time!

      But if you’re not part of the problem and never use a credit card then I suppose that’s good too.

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

        Funny how a once poor black man from Chicago has now made this culture of poorness part of our legal system. /// Clever logical error. Its blaming the President for actually ADDRESSING an issue for somehow causing it? Ha, ha. Yes indeed==why not bringing us a culture of taking care of the needy at the cheapest cost to the taxpayers? Did this idea cross your mind at all or are you totally besotted with the koolaid?

        Of interest—what do you perceive as the hallmarks of a “culture of poorness”? Can these hallmarks be concomitant or are they always causal?

      • Ron says:

        It would be ignorant to assume, that most, if not all of your financial data can and most likely is NOT being monitored by the IRS, especially through the use of third parties such as Trans Union, Equifax and Experian.

        Just one of many articles on this subject.

        The more data you give them, the more vulnerable you are.

        Most of what fuels the system is the false hope of becoming wealthy by the average person. Judging by the amount of debt most people have, its a lost cause.

        What is called money in the current system is debt.

        There is more debt than real wealth, and eventually the whole house of cards will fail.

        This is an old document, however it explains the current predatory system quite well.

  14. Paulieo says:

    People go out for SERVICE, not automation. LOL
    Have your mac-n-cheese BROUGHT to you, by a friendly server. 🙂 Just another I- fail.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      Thats an excellent contextualization of the issue. Wrong I think but why do people “go out” to eat? I don’t think its to be waited on, I personally don’t like most of those interactions with flesh and blood robots on a mission. No, we eat out to gain the services of the CHEF–not the wait staff, not the cashier.

      Cost and efficiency, profit motive and greed drives the market and consumer demand/expectation to the bottom of the barrel. Assuming tablet service is more efficient………..we are on the path to the end game.

      Wait tablet, individual table induction heaters, and frozen meals: brought to you cheaper than you can do at home.

      • Tim says:

        How are the chefs at Hooters?

        • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

          I asked one waitress there to be serviced and she threw me out.

          Where is this country going?

  15. scandihoovian says:

    I can’t wait until you can buy Burger King from a kiosk and the effing thing forgets to put napkins in the bag.

    • Tim says:

      It would be hard to set it on fire for no ketchup without napkins — Unless you are a trained boyscout or terrorist… Hmmm.

  16. MikeN says:

    It’s pretty clear Applebees is being run by MBA’s rather than restaurant people. Their food is terrible now.

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      Applebee’s was bought by IHOP a few years ago. The parent company is now called DineEquity, Inc. It is the largest full service restaurant company in the world.

      • Tim says:

        Oh, great. So a sublte change in dialect, diction, and lexicon should be added to the holiday-travel FUQ.

        “Waitress! A giant roach just crawled out from betwixed these buttery-delicious pancakes!”

        “Those aren’t ‘pancakes’; Those are ‘flapjacks’…”

        • Tim says:

          Hmm. I guess, in the spirit of the article, then it should read…

          “Computer! Siri! Xbox? A keyboard? How quaint… A giant roach just… “

          • BusBot #3 {Dewey} says:

            “…Confirming your extra DLC side-order, sir; YOU want GIANT roach on JUST dough with fuk-thing-sux SAUCE.


            “Thank you, Mr. ECA. Please allow 47 minutes. Your digital wallet will be unlocked for you upon receipt of your selection. A gratuity has been calculated as .0017 btc and automatically debited from your account for your convienience. “

  17. MikeN says:

    Coincidence that this his happening as ObamaCare is being implemented, hitting the restaurant industry a bit more?

  18. Llanyort says:

    Went to reorder our beverages (like 3 minutes ago) and could not. Seems that they means adult beverages and not pop, tea, etc

    So this system will not replace the mundane. Servers for common tasks.


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