As people pile into a restaurant called Stacked, tucked in a San Diego mall around the corner from a Lego Store, it's easy to tell newbies from repeat customers. Veterans chat or watch sports while they wait for a table. The uninitiated gawk at people who've already been seated, watching them pass an iPad around each table to tap and swipe in their orders. The iPad has a ruggedized case and a credit card reader, and it's locked down to run only one app: Stacked's proprietary menu, ordering and payment system.
Stacked started in Torrance, Calif., in 2011 with the idea of serving highly personalized pizzas and burgers by letting people tap their complex orders into an iPad. The iPad offered a bit of novelty, too. But the tablet has delivered unexpected benefits, says Stacked co-CEO Paul Motenko: Orders get to customers about five minutes faster than they did without iPads, and 86 percent of guests say the iPad enhanced their experience.
Motenko also gets any bad news quickly. Stacked's app invites guests to fill out an electronic comment card as they check out, and each location receives around 1,000 weekly submissions. A complaint automatically triggers an alert to the manager. "We have the opportunity to try to make it right before the guest leaves the restaurant," Motenko says.
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