Your New Waiter May be a Tablet

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The drive through just may be coming inside if one of your favorite restaurants later purchases the newest product that some venture capitalists are betting will take the restaurant industry by storm.

E la Carte started the same way that many small businesses have: The founder had a problem and wanted to find a way to solve for the good of others. While at a restaurant with some friends, MIT student Suri and others at his table wanted to split the check of their restaurant bill. Some had cash while others had a credit card. Splitting the check like this took more time than they wanted to spend waiting for their server to take the multiple payments and come back with the paperwork. It was at that time that Suri had the idea of a tablet system that could present a menu, take orders, and process payment with very little interaction for a human.

From here, E la Carte was born. Suri dropped out of is PD.D/MBA at MIT to pursue the development of this technology. The company plans to soon place even more of their ordering tablets in restaurants throughout the Silicon Valley. In fact, up to 20 restaurants or restaurant chains will see the E la Carte system.

E la Carte has already gained $1 million in angel investor funding from Y Combinator, SV Angel, and Applebees. Although Applebees has provided funding, they have not made a commitment to placing the system in their numerous restaurants.

The benefits of the system are vast. First, Suri cites sales metrics that show a 10% to 12% increase in sales when restaurant goers order their meals online. The E la Carte system automatically suggests add ons and upgrades based on a customer’s choices which can add valuable, high margin options at very little cost. Second, in the future, the tablet system could be used as an advertising portal allowing high dollar clients to advertise directly to the consumer while eating dinner. Finally, as the technology evolves and the modern business model evolves, the amount of serving staff needed could likely decrease.

Traditional restaurant owners aren’t worried about technologies like E la Carte, though. They believe that there will always be a market for fine dining with exceptional service from a well trained wait staff. Although technologies like this will be an innovation in casual dining and fast paced restaurants likely appealing to the younger, technological crowd, many will still prefer the slower pace of tradition. None the less, E la Carte, and other systems like it, may just place a modern twist in a business model that has remained largely unchanged for centuries.