Applebee’s Plan To Do Away With Servers

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Who needs servers?

Sound the death knell for waiters at Applebee’s because the chain announced on Tuesday that they will be installing a tablet on every table at all 1,860 stores in the U.S. These tablets will let customers order food, play video games and pay their checks because, really, in this day and age, do we even need human interaction at all anymore?

Of course the restaurant chain is saying that staffing levels will not change but who believes that? If a customer can look at a picture of a three-cheese chicken penne and then touch the screen and have that food arrive at their table ten minutes later, what the hell is the waiter for? Are we supposed to believe that Applebee’s is going to keep servers on the payroll just out of the goodness of their hearts? And customers aren’t going to be tipping computers so unless Applebee’s is going to increase the server pay rate to $17 an hour, I think servers will soon be a thing of the past at Applebee’s just like the Crispy Orange Chicken and Stuffed Ravioli with Chicken and Spinach that were recently removed from the menu much to the chagrin of many customers according to Applebee’s Facebook page.

The company says that they have found using tablets cuts wait times and encourages people to spend more on appetizers. Well, of course it cuts wait times, because there is no silly server wasting precious time saying things like, ‘How are you tonight?” and “Thank you for coming in.” And is it any surprise that people spend more money when they can just touch a picture of food that they like? Good luck to the kitchen on preparing food that looks just like the photograph that was taken in a professional studio with lighting and a dozen food stylists on hand. I’m sure that Jose will give just as much attention to his version of the Savory Cedar Salmon. Applebee’s also says that they have found that people leave bigger tips when ordering off a tablet. Yeah, right. Sure they do. On the plus side, customers can no longer blame their server when the food comes out wrong. They can blame their own greasy little fingers for touching the wrong picture of dessert.

“Excuse me, we didn’t order this Triple Chocolate Meltdown, we ordered the Blue Ribbon Brownie!”

“Well, bitch according to your browser history, you ordered the Triple Chocolate Meltdown, so shut the fuck up and enjoy. it.”

And can we talk about the actuality of having these tablets on the table? How disgusting will they become and who’s sidework is it going to be to swab them down with antibacterial wipes? If gaming is allowed on them, I can only imagine how many children are going to be running their snotty little hands all over them. And if there is only one tablet on the table and there are three kids, what will the other two be doing while one of them is playing Candy Crush. My guess is that the other two will be crying about how it’s their turn to play. I also have some concern for those folks who are technologically challenged. If someone can’t figure out how to answer the other line of their cell phone without hanging up on the other person, how in the hell are they ever going to learn how to order a Fiesta Chicken Chopped Salad with no red peppers but extra onions with the black bean corn salsa on the side?

Who knows? Maybe this is the direction that restaurants are going. Will we soon be put out to pasture grazing among other notable has-beens like cassette tapes, rotary phones and Joyce Dewitt? Is it only a matter of time before waiters and waitresses are ancient relics? (Hold up, I think I am an ancient relic…) Only time will tell, but in the meantime, Applebee’s will be rolling out their new plan in 2014. Tell me your thoughts and also, why not head over to Applebee’s Facebook page and tell them your thoughts too? If you go there, make sure you tell them that the Bitchy Waiter sent you.

I wait tables and bitch about it on my blog, The Bitchy Waiter.

44 thoughts on “Applebee’s Plan To Do Away With Servers

  1. “And can we talk about the actuality of having these tablets on the table? How disgusting will they become…”

    This.

    I went to Applebees (I know, I know…) right after they put these things in. I refused to use them. I won’t go to buffets either for a myriad of reasons not the least of which is that I don’t want to touch the handles of the communal serving spoons that have been touched by all and sundry whose hygiene/hand washing habits are questionable/unknown to me.

    Same thing applies to touching these tablets with their potential for pathogens that crawl down the tablet onto to table.

    Sure I could order and then get up and go into the bathroom and wash my hands but I already did that as soon as the hostess seated us and we put in our drink orders…because I always do that because…hygiene. I never have to touch the menu because I only ever get the same thing when I go there.

    Hmmm… I guess the “I never need to touch the menu” thing applies to the tablets as well doesn’t it? Ok but the whole bacteria/viruses/etc. that are alive and move around potentially making their way to the table thing still applies and who knows what kind of bacteria/virus someone may have introduced with their filthy hands? Especially, but not limited to “cold and flu season.” It gets on the table, then on my plate, then my food, then my mouth…it’s a vicious cycle. Plus, this is just pretentious and annoying beyond the (real) hygiene/health issues.

  2. Well, I would still want a server, because I’m one of those with questions and custom orders. I’m vegetarian, so often have to ask if I can get avocado instead of bacon or cheese… substitute a vegetarian patty for a meat patty… is there chicken/beef stock in the soup? is the sauce? etc. etc. So I would still need a server. I have seen these tablets at Chili’s, and I can say it was not for the full menu, it was only for certain items like appetizers or drinks.

  3. I am a server at applebees and the Tablets have just made it to the tables. The tablets only enable the guests to RE-order drinks, order appetizers, and order deserts. There are way to many questions about food and modifications on Entrees that make ordering them on the tablets impossible. We still greet the guests right as they get seated, take their drink order, and ask if they wanted to start with an appetizer. We deliver drinks and take their Entree order. We deliver the food, get anything they may need such as napkins or steak sauce. We collect their dirty plates from them. Refile drinks. It is still possible for the guests to pay the “old fashion way” or we have to pay that way if they pay with cash. But i prefer to have them pay on the tablets because i actually notice that I have been getting 20% much more often. If the guest isn’t interested in the tablets at all we simply take them off the table for them. If there is a need for more than one tablet on a table for playing games we can simply go grab an extra one for them. They really arnt that bad and they really don’t make the servers job easier or harder. But it does improve the guests experience.

  4. This tablet seems like it might be interesting to try–like a new game or something. But if it’s annoying at all, dirty, or ineffectual it would probably cause me to just skip Applebees altogether from now on.

  5. I like the idea of the tablets, but they should give them to the servers. It would be more efficient! I’m at the computer so much during my shift, it would be great if I could just put it in right at the table and as I’m walking away send it to the kitchen! Especially when I’m triple sat! it would save so much time!

  6. Obviously Dan is a rep for the company that makes these things guys…

    I don’t think they’re a terrible idea. I used one at Chili’s one time to split and pay our check- way easier than making the server do it. I also ordered a drink with it too (le gasp). Restaurants will never fully get rid of their wait staff, do you really think that would go over well with customers? Who would they complain to? Who do they ask if they have questions? How long did it take you, the server, to get used to your restaurants POS? Do you think a casual customer is going to be able to order their food the way they want it on one of those things?

    Psha, they’re a tool- and an expensive one at that.

  7. They already have these gizmos at Chili’s. Someone should look into the impact they’ve had on staffing.

    I like to place my order with a “real” server, but when it comes to paying the bill the tablets are great! I don’t have to wait for the check, then wait again for the server to bring the credit card slip back for me to sign. Of course when paying cash I still have to deal with a person.

  8. I work at Uno Chicago Grill and we have the Ziosk which is similar to this. A server still has to activate it and, for now, you can only order apps, desserts, and refills on boozy drinks. I am a bartender and they don’t have the same capabilities in there. I have used them in the dining room also and from my experience it’s about a 40/60 split of people who actually use them. The payment option is pretty nice in my opinion. It gives me time to focus on my bar guests while my DR guests pay their bill on their own. Thankfully we don’t have to deal with them in the bar because that would be a mess.

      1. Dan, you are totally in love with the tablets. You sound just like all the robots from Applebee’s Corporate that I have come to have the pleasure of meeting in the 12 years I’ve worked for Applebee’s. I can see what might be a benefit from your point of view. But you never think of the Server. You never have and never will.

  9. Love it. My only suggestion would be to give us an app so we can use our own phones and not touch the nasty public tablets. Other than that, I’m all for not having to wait for these slow-ass waiters.

  10. I can only imagine how filthy the tablets are going to get. Disgusting. When I decide to eat at a restaurant that has table service I expect a person to give it to me. I will not do the restaurant’s work.
    Since I’ve started reading this blog I’ve been very much in tune to servers’ plight and give a 20% tip always when I’ve had good service.
    By the way, I ended up eating at a restaurant on Thanksgiving as I had to drive several hundred miles and I left a $10 tip on an $11 tab. I was SO happy that the restaurant, a favorite pit stop of mine on this trip, was open and taking good care of me!

    1. About as dirty as the menu’s actually. The servers are trained to wipe them down after every meal. Basically just taking the paper menu to digital with a few more perks.

      The guest still has the option to order from the server.

  11. I worked at Applebee’s for 4 years and left in part because we were told this was happening. I was lucky enough to have a Plan B, but I truly feel sorry for my coworkers who will be forced to put up with this.

  12. PS also, this is how Nandos works (does the USA have Nandos?), and I never eat in Nandos because if I’m going out to dinner I want to be served, for which I will tip. I can’t tip in Nandos because I have to do half the work. The only difference is that at Nandos (at the moment) you queue up and order at a till, they don’t have table top tablets yet.

    Also, I’m so with you on the grubby fingers thing. If you’re not earning tips, where’s the incentive to wipe sticky kiddie fingermarks off the screens?!

  13. This has already happened (kind of) at a place called Grill Shack in London. When you arrive, you are seated and instructed that you can go queue up at the drinks station (it is NOT a bar!) and order and pay for your food and collect your drinks and sauces, or you can go to a till (just like a regular restaurant waiter’s till) and order there, pay by card, and have your drinks brought to you as well as your food. “Waiters” bring your food and bus your table… but on that basis I really didn’t feel that I should leave a tip?! I didn’t even have a single identifiable waiter, just a faceless person who brought me Stuff,and since there was no bill there was no folder/tiptray on which to leave money – it would have been a case of leaving random coins on the table for anyone’s pockets. Now in the UK at least we have minimum wage, but it isn’t enough in London to live on, and waiters still work for tips; I’d be very interested to know whether this company are paying above minimum wage to bring the pay in line with what waiters should expect to earn, or not. Because if you can carry plates and learn table numbers, you can wait tables and earn tips, so why would you stay at a restaurant that pays less than anywhere else?

  14. Applebees isn’t profiting much anymore. The top selling stores in Texas (where headquarters is) just now got a re-model, and one can’t even keep staff longer than a few weeks. I live in an Applebees test market, and some of their new menu items aren’t that good anyways. They are stretching for the profit margin.

    Also, take into account, drinks still have to be refilled, plates cleared, food delivered, cash exchanged, etc. There are still human interaction components that need a server. I feel like this could be a good thing for the industry or a bad. Either “food runners” (which that is what they will be called instead of servers) will get overwhelmed, especially on a busy day.

    Le sigh. Don’t fight the change, just find ways to profit with it.

  15. Am I the only one waiting to see how many of these get stolen? Seriously, people will dump an entire sugar packet caddy in their purses – not too far to expect theft of these things too.

    1. So far from what I’ve seen, less than 1%. Which becomes negligible when you are figuring the costs of manufacturing tablets these days. Mainly because they aren’t standard form factor iPads or tablets. They are built for 1 purpose, and that’s the restaurant. Outside of, they will not work and are worthless.

  16. I have been a server for about ten years…I earn the money I make because my guests are provided the service a server is responsible for. If you can not provide 100% guest satisfaction every time, there is a reason for it, a tablet will not replace my 16-20 minute appetizer cook times. So please flood my kitchen staff with more appitizers that I can forget about because I am already overwhelmed with my other ten tables…wait…

    1. I think the idea is to help you focus on conversations with the guests and ensuring they are happy. That way you can spend less time running back and forth to the terminal to split a bill 6 ways and instead ask them how their day was.

      You’re right, it will not cut down on cook time, but if you were taking another 2 table’s orders while they want another beer or app, then they can go ahead and add it to the table without having to wait another 5 minutes. In the long run making both parties happy and increasing the potential tip.

      Technology isn’t meant to replace but more to evolve the job. I’d be happy to answer anymore questions or concerns you may have about these types of systems. Technology and change can definitely be unnerving when little details are known.

  17. As a restaurant manager, people’s biggest complaint is service and at this level of dining, we can barely get servers to cover basic service standard’s like refilling drink this can only help. It’s hard to get servers to care, especially if guests are treating them like shit all the time.

    1. The nice thing about these systems is you can get direct feedback from the guests. There are also additional features of waitstaff being able to track their progress which can create fun competitions and improve service all together.

      1. Dan – ‘Fun’ competitions…? Whatever. I know I’m good at my job. I don’t a daft barchart to show me that. And I don’t need the knock-down of some twat having a go at my service when they lie to my face and say everything is fine. This is literally the worst idea ever. You cannot ask a tablet anything about anything. Question about the wine? The spirits? Question about the ingredients? Sourcing? Allergens? Substitutions? Size? Portions? Forget it!

        1. Every item in the menu has an information section, nutritional information, any allergens, modifiers if there are sides/subs/sizes etc.. It’s completely up to the restaurant to decide what they want or don’t want on there.

          You can even filter the menu by certain allergens or vege/vegan options. The guest can course their meal and decide whether they want food right away or hold until after apps.

          You’re right though, there are still things people will have questions on that you can not anticipate, which is why the server is never going to be replaced. It’s a digital menu tool for you to use 🙂

  18. Why are people such suckers for propaganda? Servers = the people bringing the food you ordered and refilling drinks. This IS MUCH BETTER!!!

    1. Maybe if you eat at a buffet. Servers take your order, out it into the computer, pace out your meal so you don’t get everything at once, suggest things that are actually good as opposed to what the company is pushing. And the reason it’s so much different is; that’s why people tip. That’s why the tipping standard is different at say, a buffet. I’m gonna guess by your attitude though, that you aren’t too familiar with tipping standards anyways, so you can forget that last little bit.

    2. Your a Fucking idiot I’m a server and I do much more than that I bring refills before you need them can help you with questions and menu recommendations due to your diet I also make conversation take stress off of you by interacting with your children not every server is like me I don’t find many when I go out that care as much as I do but regardless no way a tablet can replace what I do you still need someone to bring stuff to your table and that is why you see multiple people bringing things to your table at applebees it’s a teamwork environment to better serve our guests if you can’t appreciate this mcdonald’s is more your speed

  19. I work at an Applebee’s in CT. I will be asking about this tablet deal when I work Thursday night (12/5).
    I saw it on the NBC Nightly New on Tuesday. And had about all the same thoughts you did about the whole matter. I figure they are looking to get rid of Servers. They alway cut the floor too deep and expect us that no longer have table to assist the remaining Servers that are in the weeds. But get your side work done in under an hour and get off my labor!

  20. Check your facts. You can only order appetizers and desserts and possibly Refill beverages off of it not your entrée. It is meant for convenience to the customers so that on a busy night they don’t have to wait for their server to pay their check or order their dessert. As we all know sometimes you are waiting forever to pay when you just want to leave so really it’s a very convenient idea.

  21. I don’t like this at all. While I am not super sociable, I’d rather talk to a server than push buttons repeatedly. I also think of my 73 year old grandmother and my 87 year old mother in law who have never used a computer in thier lives. They wouldn’t even know what a tablet is, let alone how to order off of one. And lastly,how long are these tablets going to last when shit is being spilled on them CONSTANTLY? Because you know it’s going to happen. Personally, Applebees is so-so food for me, and for what it is, sort of expensive for what you get (if I want a burger, I can get one at Denny’s for 3 bucks cheaper and it tastes the same!) and I can’t see paying 15 bucks for a burger there to cover the cost of the broken tablets they are going to be replacing

  22. I used to be a server, and I liked doing it. With that aside, I really enjoyed the SOCIAL part of going to eat at restaurants. I liked the WELCOMING servers I’d get, and the conversation that would go on. That’s all gone if there’s just a tablet. I don’t like this.

    1. The intention a lot of people seem to miss is it’s a digital menu tool for the staff.

      Many of the waiters still take orders as normal. They get the tedious parts of the job out of the way if you’re busy helping other people. That way you have more time to focus on people’s enjoyment of the meal and actually chat with them about other things other than what side they would like with their meal.

      Less time people wait to get that additional beer they want or to pay, the happier they are. There are also the options for surveys so you can get direct feedback of how you are doing or where you can improve.

      Anyways, I’ve had experience with these kinds of technologies and am willing to answer any questions you may have :).

      1. Sit down, Dan.

        Just another tool for society to learn how to be less and less sociable.
        I definitely agree with the article. Whose going to want to tip when they feel like they done “most of the work” themselves? They’re not. It’s going to be another cheap bastard’s excuse not to tip and a good tip seems to be kind of rare these days.
        Thanks bitch, that 2 dollar tip you left on my table will get me .001 gallons of gas.

  23. Ridiculous. I never eat there anyway, but … on the plus side, if the people now running food and bussing tables (which a tablet manifestly cannot do) are NOT “servers,” they can’t be paid below minimum wage, can they?

    Anyway, if I were an Applebee’s server at one of the rollout locations, I’d be asking that question STAT. Because if the establishment says O Yes, indeed you will still be paid just $2 an hour because our customers are bound to tip under this system (HAHAHAHAHA ‘scuse me), then the server might want to … walk.

    1. I’m a waitress at Applebee’s and I just this is ridiculous. Applebees is all about connecting with the guest, making them feel at home and not sound like a robot. These will be the complete opposite! And as for how this improves anything, I’ve been to Red Robin and these tablets were absolutely useless! When my server was no where to be found, I tried reordering a drink but couldn’t because she hasn’t even rang the first one in or even told the damn thing that the table was sat. Also, it was so sticky and covered in food that I didn’t even want to touch it. When it was time to pay for the bill, I brought the bill up and the server ran over to close it out and said he will just take the payment because using that is too much of a hassle. The only thing it’s good for is to charge you $2 to play a game during dinner when you should be socializing with the people around you! This is possibly one of the worst ideas.

      1. I am also a server at applebees and no computer or tablet can replace the service I offer granted not every server gives as much as I do I have so many regulars that my bills are guaranteed paid and this happens because applebees goes out of their way to train their employees not to mention I’m just badass I have a personality I talk to people I joke around I make it an experience so people not only want to come back they ask for me when they come back

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