Sturdy, nondescript tables that traditionally populate quick-service dining rooms may soon be replaced by high-tech tabletop innovations offered by two emerging technology companies.

Digital Touch Systems launched a touch-screen tabletop that allows customers to order, interact, and socialize with the brand and other patrons. Meanwhile, Light Blue Optics recently introduced Light Touch, a small interactive projector that sits on a table and shines a 10-inch touch screen onto the table surface.

“Since the iPhone came out, touch screen technology has been booming,” says Digital Touch Systems CEO Bryan McCarley.

The Digital Touch Systems tabletop allows quick-service restaurants to put their entire menu at the fingertips of the customer, who can browse the menu, order, and even pay and print a receipt. After they order, customers can play games, interact with other tables, and surf social networking sites.

Square, a quick-service restaurant near Baylor University campus in Waco, Texas, recently installed several of Digital Touch System’s tabletops. 

“It’s created a buzz around the restaurant. It’s kind of like the restaurant was reborn,” says Square owner and operator Alec Pandya. “During the first four or five months, we had a 40–50 percent increase in sales because people were coming to check it out.”

Pandya says his restaurant’s customers enjoy seeing photos of each of the menu items on the tabletop, an element that is also driving sales.

“We are getting quicker turn time as well because they are getting in and ordering without having to wait for someone,” Pandya says. “The customer service comes when they bring out the food with a smile on their face.”

Light Blue Optics, which rolled out the Light Touch in January, is working with several restaurant chains to put its technology on tables.

“You can project menus onto the table so the customer can sit down and order their meal,” says Tamara Roukaerts, director of marketing communications at Light Blue Optics. “They can also watch videos of the chef preparing their meal through a live video feed.”

The vertical, stem-like device sits anywhere on a table and can be programmed to allow diners to order taxis or tickets to movies, interact on social networking platforms, and play games.

“From the restaurateur’s perspective there’s real value added here,” Roukaerts says. “It’s been shown that when you allow people to order for themselves, they tend to order a lot more—up to 15 percent more.”

Restaurateurs who are exploring tabletop technology should view it as a large capital investment that can increase sales and ultimately shrink costs, says Partha Das of Cognizant, an international technology consulting firm.

“If it is not going to help you replace some of your cashier ordering or point-of-sale equipment, then it will not be able to show you a return on investment,” says Das, the firm’s senior manager in its travel and hospitality division.

By Brendan O'Brien

News, Ordering