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Restaurant Goes High-Tech With Tablet Ordering System

By Nigel Chiwaya | November 23, 2012 7:19am

FOREST HILLS—There's something high tech on the menu at a Station Square restaurant.

Jade Eatery and Lounge, a Thai restaurant, is testing out an ambitious new project that provides customers with tablet computers they can use to order meals and pay their bills.

About the size of a novel, the tablets entice customers with large pictures of food and drink items. 

When a diner makes his or her choice, the order is transmitted to the wait staff, who can then deliver the food or drink. In fact, customers could bypass giving their orders to waiters altogether.

While that made some customers leery the gadgets would replace humans, staffers say they have been great for business, especially for customers who want additional drinks or food items.

"The re-sales have been stupendous," said Raymond Taylor, 40, Jade's general manager. "If the staff is explaining something at another table and [customers] want to order another Coke or another appetizer, it allows them the freedom to just push a button and we'll bring it to them."

The tablets, named Presto, are made by E la Carte, a restaurant technology startup based in Silicon Valley, Calif. Taylor said that Jade represents Presto's trial run in New York.

The presence of the tablets at first seems out of place at Jade, which was recently used as the backdrop for a television show in part because of its classic European look. Taylor said customers were hesitant to use them at first, but they warmed up after seeing the staff interact with the machines.

When customers aren't ordering menu items, they can use the tablets to play games and even pay their bill, a feature Taylor said has been very popular.

"On a busy Friday or Saturday night you can run your credit card right through it, email yourself the receipt and you're able to close out your check right there in front of you . And your credit card never [has] to leave your sight," he said.

Customers have embraced the tablets, too.

"I think it's great," said Kim Melendez, who was dining at Jade with her friend James Salnave. "When you don't want to be bothered you can just place your order here."

Salnave, who was seeing the tablet for the first time, was blown away.

"Every restaurant should have these," he said. "It's the wave of 2012, 2013."