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Olive Garden will start a phased rollout of Ziosk tablets to more restaurants in May
<p>Olive Garden will start a phased rollout of Ziosk tablets to more restaurants in May.</p>

Olive Garden to roll out tabletop tablets

Company aims to introduce technology at all U.S. restaurants by end of year

Olive Garden will roll out Ziosk tablets at its more than 800 U.S. restaurants by the end of the year, the Orlando, Fla.-based casual-dining operator said Tuesday.

Olive Garden has been testing the tablets in a select number of restaurants since last year, and said feedback from customers and servers has been positive. The restaurants in the test have higher guest satisfaction scores, faster dining times and increased tips for servers.

“We’ve been focused on improving the dining experience at every touch point, and we’re excited to give our guests the ability to customize their visit by leveraging the technology of Ziosk’s tabletop tablets,” Dave George, Olive Garden’s president, said in a statement. “This additional resource benefits both our guests and our servers, enabling our team members to make more meaningful connections and provide more personalized service.”

Tabletop tablets have become increasingly popular at casual-dining chains. Chili’s, Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings have all added the technology in recent years. The tablets typically let customers order drinks and appetizers, play games and pay — eliminating a frequent pain point in the casual-dining business.

In May, Olive Garden will start a phased rollout of Ziosk tablets to more restaurants. The company will work to train staff to ensure that the tablets reach their “full potential.”

Ziosk’s seven-inch touchscreen tablets run on the Android operating system, and let customers browse the menu, order and pay. The tablets will also feature news from USA Today, as well as activities such as zTrivia, a Ziosk-developed game updated biweekly with questions about current news and events.

“Olive Garden provides guests a warm, family atmosphere that promotes the same kind of togetherness the communal entertainment on Ziosk tablets is designed to foster,” Ziosk CEO Austen Mulinder said in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with a restaurant that shares our vision for using technology to encourage fund and interaction over a great shared meal.”

Olive Garden, which is owned by Darden Restaurants Inc., has been in a prolonged sales slump. Tablets may be seen as a way to speed service.

The technology also tends to encourage customer feedback. Customers who use a tablet are 10 times more likely to enroll in a loyalty club and 30 times more likely to fill out a satisfaction survey, giving chains more insights into the guest experience.

Olive Garden also gives Ziosk another big customer. The company says it has tablets in more than 1,500 restaurants that serve 30 million customers a month. When the tablets are deployed in Olive Garden locations, it will serve 50 million customers a month from 135,000 tablets.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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