It’s been a year since E la Carte launched its customized tablet for restaurants, which brings menus, wine lists, nutritional info, play-while-you-wait games, and payment options tableside, and now the company has new numbers to reveal. This time last year, there were around 20 restaurants using the tablet; today there are now over 600, including national chains Pizzeria Venti and Umami Burger, as well as Faz Restaurant Group in the San Francisco Bay Area and Classic Restaurant Concepts in Boston. In total, the company has around 20,000 tablets ready for deployment.
The company, if you’re unfamiliar, makes a 7-inch tablet they call “Presto,” which includes a digital touchscreen menu with photos and detailed descriptions, plus games and a built-in credit card reader. The tablet is also ruggedized for heavy use, offers a 20-hour battery life, and whose usage is provided on a subscription basis.
According to founder Rajat Suri, the average usage is at 150,000 users (annually), and its adoption is increasing by 50% month-over-month. And the El la Carte team has grown, too, from 5 to 35 people over the past year.
“People sometimes think that restaurants are slow to move, but it turns out that once a few start to move, everyone else sees them and there’s a huge herd mentality,” says Suri. “If you’re a restaurant, how do differentiate yourself from the guy next door?, he asks. “People are looking at this and thinking ‘this is how I could improve the guest experience.'”
But it’s not just the guest experience that’s being improved, Suri says. The company also reports its restaurants are seeing a 10% higher check average, which, with restaurant’s tight margins, is a huge boost. Plus, table turn time is reduced by 7 minutes, as it takes 55 seconds to pay with the company’s “Presto” tablet compared with 8 minutes through the traditional process.
You would think that with tablets doing much of the wait staff’s job for them, there would be a decrease in tips – after all, the waiter is no longer taking the order, bringing you your check or, in the case of fine dining establishments, even suggesting the wine pairing for the meal. But, paradoxically, the opposite has proved true so far. Tips are up. This is mainly because restaurant owners can customize the tablet with suggested tip options which can be selected at the touch of a button. And it’s easier to push a button than figure out how to stiff your waiter.
In the near future (Q3), the Presto tablet platform, which is built on top of Linux, will include new ways to see nutritional information, so users can filter menus by diet (e.g. low calorie, low-carb, etc.) or by allergies (e.g. gluten-free). By the end of the year or early next year, E la Carte will introduce ways for bars and other more casual restaurants to incorporate social, restaurant-wide games like trivia which will work with in-house TVs to display the questions and leaderboards.
At the end of the day, Suri says his company’s goal is to put the Presto tablet on every restaurant table. “‘It’s not going to be trivial,” he says. “We’ll need to grow significantly, luckily we have great revenues to support that, and great demand from the marketplace.”
E la Carte has $5 million in funding, with a $4 million Series A led by Lightbank, as well as around $1 million from other angel investors.
Update: There was some confusion regarding the original figures. 20K tablets are in the pipeline, not yet deployed. This piece has more recent data: http://techcrunch.com/2012/11/13/e-la-carte-releases-more-powerful-version-of-customized-tablet-for-restaurants/