An old friend of my from my days at HughesNet sent me a link to a news article outlining how tablets used for “digital dining” represent a growing subset of digital signage, self-service and tablet computing for business. I personally think it’s overhyped, misinformed and setup for eventual leapfrog by other technology. Here are a few reasons why.
- The hardware will be obsolete quickly. As technology rapidly changes, the hardware will not only fall quickly into obsolescence, but it will also–unless purchased for its robustness–deteriorate more quickly thanks to more frequent use.
- The hardware is difficult to secure. Even if you chain it to the table, the possibility of an expensive piece of hardware walking off doesn’t change much. We have a client who has to put cost of hardware theft into his budget.
- The hardware gets extremely dirty. The bus boy will be given at least one more task: cleaning the tablets between use. Otherwise, the constant touching will not only create a health hazard, it can create a quality assurance problem within the establishment.
- Near Field Communication (NFC) chips will replace credit card swiping before we know it. Sure, there is a great deal of institutional pressure to maintain the status quo when it comes to credit cards, but the needle will eventually move and when it does, the need for a tablet-based menu complete with Square or some other swiping capability will be almost completely obsolete.
- Phablets + Apps will reduce the need for buying hardware. With phone sizes reaching into ridiculousness, the need for hardware used directly by the restaurant will be almost completely absurd. Furthermore–and like the kiosk–applications will replace hardware in the long run–especially when everyone has their own personal hardware on them at all times. In the long run, the application will control all. The hardware won’t matter.
Don’t get me wrong, we have somewhat of a vested interest in this technology. We not only find it complimentary to what we offer, but we also have quite a number of customers who’re actually using our software on Android-based tablets as an application to which content can be pushed and managed from a remote server. However, restaurants who’re investing in hardware may find their hopes dashed rather quickly as other technologies will make the dining experience even more practical at lower prices. Of course, if you just can’t wait and want to be on the absolute “bleeding edge,” then this type of restaurant digital menu technology is most certainly for you. It could be a differentiation tool from other competing restaurants, but in most cases, I like to determine differentiation by the quality of the food.
That’s just my two cents. What do you think?