Since debuting in 1985, Buzztime—a social entertainment and integrated marketing platform with more than 7 million player registrations—has changed quite a bit. CEO Ram Krishnan recalls when consumers needed a remote control and TV to play the trivia, card, and sports games, from their restaurant table or bar booth. That progressed to free-floating tablets, and the next step, Krishnan says, will feel just as natural in a technology-driven market.
Buzztime’s latest evolution will allow consumers to view menus, place orders, and complete their orders from the more than 45,000 devices already deployed, Krishnan says.
“As time has moved on and our customers and consumers have advanced in their use of technology, it’s become a natural extension of ours,” Krishnan says. “We’ve always been focused on the entertainment side and now we’re moving into service. The combination, we think, is a great blend of fun and functionality for the consumer.”
While the decision to include ordering services was an obvious one, Krishnan says the benefits to restaurants and patrons were equally clear. The technology is already being run at the Arooga's Grille House & Sports Bar locations—10 of the 11 brands are in Pennsylvania—and Krishnan says the feedback has helped Buzztime project the response. So far, so good. Participating restaurants will either receive a software update or new hardware, depending on what’s already in place.
As far as explaining the benefits, Krishnan highlights a few different points. To start, Krishnan talks about looking at the dining experience from a personal perspective. Consumers facing long wait times can be handed a tablet and kept busy, whether that’s playing one of the games or taking a look at the menu. “That guest’s perception of the wait time goes down and the guest’s satisfaction goes up,” he says.
When it comes down to ordering from the menu-display screen, diners can each be handed a different tablet and order onto one check. Aside from the convenience, and the ability to display specials and promotions servers may have overlooked, Krishnan believes the customization features will also lift check value. “If you or I were sitting at the table together and we were given a host of digital toppings or add-ons we can put on our burger, we’re more likely to add extra bacon or cheese when we’re tapping a screen than we are when we’re saying that out loud,” he says.
That same effort-free decision-making can also help boost drink orders, he adds. “That extra beer you thought you might order but you never saw the server so you didn’t get, you’re likely to get now.”
Additionally, the customization places the responsibility in the diner’s hands instead of the server's. Error, food waste, and possible allergy concerns are addressed. Servers automatically receive a 20 percent tip with the software so they can spend more time interacting with guests instead of running to place and fix orders, Krishnan says.
And, like always, efficiency and quick table turn plays a major role. Krishnan says the checkout capability has been one of the devices most popular features to date. “We found on average you’re spending another 10 to 15 minutes waiting to hail the server, get the check, hand them your credit card, have them process it and hand it back. That’s 10 to 15 minutes of waste. In peak times, you can imagine if you cleared the tables 10 to 15 minutes faster you could do a lot more table turns during the course of that time frame,” he says.
Krishnan says Buzztime plans to add a payment feature in the future as well.
By Danny Klein