Back from my month long vacation and I have downloaded the pictures from my smartphone which held me in good stead in the absence of my digital camera. If you read my recent blog, I talked of how smartphones have combined several devices into one – it is my MP3 player, landline at home, GPS Navigator in the car, radio, stop watch, electronic travel tickets, newspaper and during this trip, I added digital camera to the list of devices it made redundant.
Tablets with their 7inch to 10 inch screen size share several of the smartphone’s attributes and have a far wider usage across sectors – hospitality, healthcare, education…etc. The list goes on. While visiting coffee shops in California and restaurants in New York, I noticed how tablets are replacing existing clunky point-of-sale interfaces, manual reservation systems and, potentially, menus!!
Customers swiped their credit cards through a dongle connected to a tablet to pay for their coffee in San Francisco while restaurateurs used a tablet to present menus and manage diner seating arrangements. I was particularly impressed with the diner management – we put our names on the wait list and wandered off in the mall. A few minutes before time, the restaurant system sent a SMS alerting us that our table was ready.
Putting on my oracle glasses here is what your future dining experience is going to be – Tablets and apps will not only help with the above but also allow diners to view dish details, interact with the kitchen, modify their dishes according to their dietary needs and finally end with the billing via virtual receipts. Simply put the tablet will become second only to the actual food during a culinary experience.
I have seen parts of such a system in place – closer to home, with electronics retailers where the receipt is emailed to me. With an end to end infrastructure in place, any restaurateur can capture the guest’s phone number and email address to send future promotions and updates if the guest opts in.
While the concept represented in this post might not be unique in the western world, I believe it represents an entrepreneurial opportunity in the Middle East. Imagine yourself as a company that offers tablets and apps on an opex based monthly fee model. However before you run out there and purchase 15 tablets to sell to a restaurant owner, there is a caveat – and Abbas in his recent blog couldn’t have captured my sentiments better: mobile payment gateways like Square Inc that handle all payments suffer from issues or don’t exist in our region (yet). Or in simpler words, until the infrastructure arrives, you can buy yourself a cup of coffee in San Fransisco’s Blue Bottle Cafe and see how tablets are taking over the world.