Remember that Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD) commercial where the referee asks diners whether they want the game to go to overtime or not while he pretends to review a play? It might not be too far from reality. Buffalo Wild Wings has announced that they are going to install tablet computers at every table restaurant for patrons to experience interactive games or order another round from the bar. Buffalo Wild Wings has always been a restaurant at the forefront of integrating technology to the restaurant experience. Other restaurants like Chili's and Applebee's have also committed to installing tablet computers which will revolutionize the casual dining experience. The question that remains is how software will be integrated to the restaurant tablets. Will restaurants build their own menu systems, or just use GrubHub Seamless? Is Buffalo Wild Wings going to build their own iPad payment system, or might they just use Square?
For a long time now the interactive experience has been a big part of Buffalo Wild Wings. They have TVs everywhere. No matter which sports you like, you can probably find something you'd like to watch inside one of their restaurants. Even if you can't, or if sports aren't your cup of tea, they alternatively offer games such as trivia, Texas hold 'em poker, billiards, a hang man variant and others through the wireless Buzztime device. When Buffalo Wild Wings installs tabletop tablets, its unclear whether or not the Buzztime devices will stick around. With a tablet on every table, parties will be able to collaborate on trivia or vote to control the ambient music within the restaurant. Unfortunately if Buffalo Wild Wings does switch over to 1 tablet per table and scrap the Buzztime devices, you will no longer be able to bet the round of beers with your buddy through hidden guess electronic trivia. That is, unless BWLD adds smartphone integration to their entertainment network, which could also be a near term possibility.
Another software challenge that restaurants adding tablets will face is adding an interactive ordering form. Will each company hire software developers to build their own proprietary platform, or will they just use an established interface like the one used at GrubHub Seamless. GrubHub Seamless has built an online food delivery platform that allows users to order food and add options such as spice level, sauce on the side, or additional side dishes and dessert options.
Finally, Buffalo Wild Wings announced that their tablet system will include capacity for payment, critically cutting one of the most time consuming parts of a server's job. There are a variety of ways this could go. One immediate thought that comes to mind is that they could use Square to swipe credit card payments directly on the tablet computer. The image above shows exactly how Square can be attached to an iPad to take credit card payments almost everywhere. The Square device is small and light, it could easily be attached to each table and would take up a minimal amount of space. On the other hand, the restaurant could install a large number of traditional payment processors, or even go the Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) route and let customers use smartphones to pay.
We know that Buffalo Wild Wings is growing its revenue and earnings quickly and will soon bring tablet computers to the restaurant industry, but there are still plenty of unknowns. Buffalo Wild Wings has told us they want to use the tablet for entertainment, food ordering and payment. We just don't know exactly how they will go about doing it and the methods they choose will have broader effects that spill into other industries like payment processing and mobile phone software.