TGI Fridays to roll out tablets nationwide

Give a server a tablet, and diners will spend more. That's why TGI Fridays announced plans Monday to roll out the devices nationwide.

Wait staff will take orders and process checks using the tablets at people's tables—eliminating backups that often occur at a point-of-sale system and cutting the time it takes for servers to log orders.

TGI Friday's announced plans to roll out tablets to help waitstaff.
Source: TGI Friday's
TGI Friday's announced plans to roll out tablets to help waitstaff.

During a six-city pilot test, the privately held casual dining chain saw tips and the average per-person order increase, said Tripp Sessions, TGI Fridays' vice president and chief information officer, in a phone interview. Higher sales of premium alcohol drove a big part of this improvement. Staff turnover also dropped.

TGI Fridays joins a long list of restaurants that are deploying tablets, including DineEquity's Applebee's and Brinker International's Chili's.

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"We obviously believe it's fairly crucial," Sessions said. "Based on results we're getting, we think it's going to make big improvement to our bottom line."

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While the company hopes to have the tablets rolled out nationwide, franchisees are not required to opt into the program. It expects tablets to be in 80 additional restaurants by March. Eventually, Sessions expects the tablets to roll out internationally as well.

Following several payment breaches in retail stores and restaurants, the tablets also play into customers' desire to keep close tabs on their cards.

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"There is a great benefit to people that the card is never leaving guests' hands," he said. "Having it never leave their sight is an additional measure of security."

TGI Fridays is deploying Dell tablets that use Microsoft Windows 8.1 and run a program from Oracle's MICROS. It is one of many restaurant chains that Microsoft is currently working with to infuse more technology into the guest experience. It's worked withHardee's to test kiosk ordering and McDonald's to deliver promotions to customers' phones based on proximity to one of its locations.

"One of the things we see happening across restaurants, retail…is the question about which application of technology will win out," said Tracy Issel, Microsoft's general manager of worldwide retail, in a phone interview.

Meanwhile, TGI Fridays is exploring its options.

"I really look at technology as an accelerator for value creation," Sessions said. "We're working on a wide set of initiatives that are going to help us make more money."

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect TGI Fridays' updated plans for its tablet rollout.