Chili's Launching Touch-Screen Tablets For Tables

We might not have robot servers just yet, but it looks like we're slowly getting there.

Chili's has announced a rollout of touch-screen tablets at American restaurants, the Wall Street Journal announced, starting today. The computer screens from Ziosk, which were being tested last year, will be at more than 800 Chili's in the U.S. by early 2014.

And it turns out, placing the menus on the table is a smart move for the chain; WSJ reports that Chili's found diners often spent more money per check when they had easy access to the tablets. The tablets were used to advertise for desserts, as photos would pop up on the screen halfway through the diners' main course, WSJ reports. Dessert sales jumped 20 percent in tests, while coffee sales similarly rose, most likely because impulse purchases are easier when you can simply touch and swipe, instead of being judged by the servers.

Krista Gibson, senior vice president of brand strategy, suggests that the chain may soon promote alcoholic beverages through the new platform during meals, although currently guests cannot order an entire meal, or a first round of booze, through the tablet. Instead, it's meant to be a fast way for customers to add on orders, side dishes, and extra drinks without having to flag down a busy server. "We never pursued this as a way to cut labor," Gibson said, noting that a server will always be "the first person who comes in contact with our guests."

The chain promises that there won't be a reduction in the amount of staff each outlet hires due to the tablets; instead, the tablets are simply there to facilitate the dining out procedures. Gibson notes that 50 percent of diners opt to pay through the Ziosk, instead of waiting for the bill, diminishing the possibility of credit card skimming, as Fast Company notes. So it's not quite cutting out servers, but it might help when your server is stretched too thin. Bonus points: there are games for kids (although we do have a soft spot for those crayons and kids menus).