How iPad Ordering Changes the Way Diners Tip

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According to a new study, consumers prefer iPad tipping the most in casual restaurants, compared to fine-dining and even quick-service establishments, and this presents casual-dining operators offering iPad POS systems a chance to improve the guest experience—and thus the tip amount a guest leaves.

These are the findings from a study released in January by Software Advice, a restaurant tech research group. The study found iPad POS systems are more beneficial to restaurateurs than traditional POS systems due to increased upsell functionalities, direct placement of orders to the kitchen, and the ability to offer a streamlined, more positive customer experience.

The use of an iPad can increase the likelihood a customer leaves a tip; restaurants can ensure the smart tipping option is on, which automatically offers pre-set tip amounts on each check, and keep the signature screen separate from the tipping screen, so that customers can't move on to sign their receipt until they've indicated how much tip they want to leave. 

The tactics appear to work: Nearly a third of consumers surveyed said they were more likely to tip when presented with an opt-out "no tip" button they had to press.

"The standard process has three interactions: the dropping of the bill, the picking up and processing of the bill, and finally the returning of the receipt," says Justin Guinn, a market researcher at Software Advice. "Given today's technology, this process is unnecessarily elongated and inefficient. With iPad POS systems, the payment process is one quick, seamless interaction. It's for that reason that these systems will be much more impactful to full-service restaurants as opposed to fast-casual or quick-service restaurants."

Part of the reasons customers are willing to leave higher tips is because paying on an iPad makes the exchange of money less obvious, researchers say: Consumers aren't fiddling with dollar bills, thinking through tips in their heads. With an iPad's smart tip accessory, all consumers need to do is press a button signifying the percent tip they'd like to leave, or adjust accordingly.

The proximity of the server is another important element that impacts tipping. Forty-one percent of consumers will increase their base tip if their server or cashier is in close proximity, though another 41 percent said the server's proximity would make no impact, since they would leave a tip regardless.

Psychology suggests this is due to social pressure as well as conformity pressure, experts say, especially if the server stays at the table to guide the guests through the iPad process. The server can use this time to leave a final good impression on the diners, which can also lead to a higher tip.

The fact that 41 percent of consumers said the close proximity of the server would "definitely" or "probably" increase their likelihood to tip was the most surprising aspect of the study, Guinn says.

"This has huge implications for full-service restaurants using these systems for at-the-table paying,” he explains. “Servers are expected to be close to customers to assist them with the iPad payment process. Since they're already there, this allows them to increase their likelihood of getting a tip without unnecessarily loitering around waiting for the customer to input it."

By Sonya Chudgar 

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