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Olive Garden: Yet another chain using tablets on tables for ordering

A new trend in dining out is starting to catch on: tablets in addition to servers. Olive Garden is the latest chain to jump on board this trend.

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Olive Garden joins the ranks

A new trend in dining out is starting to catch on: tablets in addition to servers. Olive Garden has started installing Ziosk computer tablets at all of its U.S. locations so customers can order and pay by touch screen.

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Ziosk offers a tablet at every table, not only to order and pay, but for convenience. Ziosk pushes your loyalty club, enabling customers to sign up right at the table. This also enables your customers to redeem your rewards right at the table as well. Guests can also capture memorable moments at the table using the built-in camera and then upload them to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Customers can also use the built-in tip calculator to figure out what they owe. Once you’ve paid, by swiping your card through the card reader on the tablet, the LED indicator light changes color, letting the server know the check is paid and the customer can leave whenever they are ready. You can choose to print your receipt at the table or email it. After payment has been made, businesses can choose to display a short satisfaction survey, to monitor their dining experience.

Ziosk could become the standard

This could become the new trend in dining because after Olive Garden began trying Ziosk tablet in some of its restaurants last year, those locations experienced faster dining times and increased tip percentages. They will continue to roll out the devices to all their 800+ locations before the end of the year.

Dave George, President of Olive Garden, stated, “We’ve been focused on improving the dining experience at every touch point, and we’re excited to give our guests the ability to customize their visit by leveraging the technology of Ziosk’s tabletop tablets.”

Olive Garden is just the latest chain to jump on the tablet trend. Air ports began installing tablets to allow travelers the ability to have food and drink delivered right to their seats while waiting in the terminal. This is still food-related, but helpful, nonetheless. Ziosk tablets are also being used at Chili’s restaurants and are slated to begin launching at Red Robin’s nationwide.

The benefits of tablets, a trend to watch

Tablets are being used more and more to enhance the customer experience, cut down on wait times, target consumers with promotions in-store, and generally appear like the business is “on trend” with what consumers want. I have seen auto shops use them in place of the old paper number system; crafters and artisans use them so they can receive payment at shows without the need to carry a dedicated credit card reader, and some banks now use them to verify your signature.

Tablets are becoming an important part of doing business and this is definitely a trend to monitor. However, the little tiny voice in the back of my mind wonders how long it will be before someone manages to hack into the Ziosk system and get a free meal, or how this will effect people’s communication skills even further with yet another electronic device to distract them from old-school conversation skills, to high-tech games and apps. Still, the tablet thing is happening and it’s definitely a trend to watch.

#OliveGardenZiosks

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Pingback: News about Tablets | IT and CNC Geeks' World

  2. Unclebart

    August 10, 2015 at 1:12 am

    We experienced the Ziosk at Olive Garden for the first time today and considering this is a family style restaurant we thought that it took up valuable table space, was distractive, and we only wanted to order with our server and not figure out some new gadget at a donner table. This thing would be better in a bar, pub, airport environment. We are not happy and will explore other dining choices if they don’t get rid of these things 🙁

  3. tubasteve

    September 6, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    These tablets make it far too eady to incur a charge for their dumb games. We were checking it out and it seemed to indicate unlimited games were $1.99 which led us to assume a single play was free. Nope… $1.99 charge on our bill plus unforgivably slow service means the tablet ate the waiters meager tip.

  4. kneeless

    September 30, 2015 at 2:50 am

    I experienced this for the first time tonight at Olive Garden & am not a fan. I prefer old fashioned customer service and I prefer that to be provided to me by a human being. I will be less inclined to go to Olive Garden & other restaurants that use
    Ziosk or similar methods. Soon we will be paying more and service will be self serve or by robots.

  5. Elf

    October 24, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    The Ziosk does address one primary concern during lunchtime, namely the “Being held Hostage by the Check” dilemma. Many of us would like to have a well-sized lunch that’s delivered and paid for quickly. When coworkers think of going out for lunch, many times the thought is killed by thinking, “Oh, no, we’re going to have to wait an eternity for a table, our food and then even longer to pay.”

    The Ziosk allows my colleagues and I to say, “Elf now has Extra Speed!”

  6. Makq

    November 16, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Here’s the thing. If you’re able to order at the table without waitstaff, and check out without wait staff, wouldn’t it be logical that people are going to make a value decision about that when it comes to tipping the staff? I know at my visit to Olive Garden this weekend (for the first time) I absolutely made that connection.

    Frankly, as tech savvy as I am, there comes a point where it’s just not worth it. I don’t want to play with their machine while I’m having lunch, or try to figure it out merely to order a drink.

    For example, at Olive Garden, they advertise a complementary (1 oz) glass of wine at the beginning of your meal. I wasn’t aware of this, and only noticed that we hadn’t been offered it because the table next to ours was. Do you think I would want to take the time to write out a message to the manager on the tablet or talk to the wait staff? Considering that the wait staff was non existent, it irked me all through the meal. Then to have the tablet “suggest” a tip amount felt like I was being panhandled for it.

  7. LauraH

    December 22, 2015 at 11:26 am

    After using the Ziosk at Olive Garden two hours later had two fraudulent charges on debit card totaling $202.99. Later googled to find that these machines are easy to hack. I will NEVER use one again at any restaurant.

  8. Cherie

    January 30, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    After sitting down at Olive Garden today my 8 yr old was thrilled to see the tablet with games until I found out there was a charge for each game. It’s not the $1.99, it’s the feeling that they are trying to squeeze the last cent out of me. I’m already paying $12 bucks for a 10 cent plate of pasta, come on guys once those apps are purchased there is no charge to play them.

  9. Dennis

    February 10, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    When I go to a nice restaurant like the Olive Garden, I don’t expect to have to use a terminal to order my food, fnd the kids off from playing games and expose my credit card to insecure POS terminal. I will find other nice Italian restaurants to dine at.

  10. Steve

    February 12, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    I feel that tablets don’t belong onto a dining table, the people who made this decision don’t have any sense for good culture. I will boycott any restaurant that thinks that there is nothing wrong with it, besides the way how they trick you into table games without making it clear that they would charge for it.

  11. Linda OHara

    March 13, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I refused to use the tablet at our table and told our server that I would be paying him directly. When dining with our friends and having a nice conversation, I don’t want to stop and try to figure out their tablet, plus it doesn’t accept coupons since there was no bar coding. So I will only pay the server directly and then leave him a nice tip for his service.

  12. Christy

    April 11, 2016 at 11:05 am

    It’s distracting and I actually tip less when forced to use one. Why should I tip normally when I am clearly not getting the same personal service from my server. In the time it takes a server to explain how to use it, my order could have already been placed and submitted by the server directly to the kitchen using the old school order ticket.

  13. Charlotte Moore

    May 3, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    My son and I stopped at Olive Garden to have a nice lunch together and were completely shocked to find a tablet in place of a server! We both thought it was completely ridiculous! First of all we couldn’t seem to place our order…it kept jumping to the children’s menu! So we tried pushing the button to call a server, but no one showed up! We ended up walking out of the restaurant, completely disappointed! We will NEVER go back!

  14. Brian

    May 16, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Forget you Olive Garden. I absolutely HATE that Ziosk / Kiosk thing on my table. Takes up WAY too much space and everyone including myself spends WAY too much time looking at screens nowadays. I put it on the floor and when the waitress told me I had to pay for the meal using that thing I told her to do it herself. To add to the frustration the food quality is worse than ever, and it took 45 minutes to get our 2 children spaghetti with tomato sauce??? While we already had our meals (which the kids wouldn’t like the taste of). Poor kids had to sit there with no food, all while waiting for something that should take about 3 minutes in an italian restaurant. STUPID waitress had no understanding of this or compassion for the situation. What a total loser and abhor-able place now. I will NEVER go back on my dime. I love technology as much as the next millennial, but get that garbage of flashing advertisement out of my and my family’s face.

    • DK

      July 6, 2016 at 2:01 am

      Brian, you prefer they take the card away from the table? That system needs to go away quick! I like the European method where the card never ever ever leaves the table. Ever.

  15. John

    June 11, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Just finished a meal at Olive Garden and I could not agree more. I refuse to use the Ziosk or allow my credit card to be swiped on one. Also noticed the prices have gone up again! There are too many places to eat and once the novelty of these things wears off, maybe they will wake up.

  16. DK

    July 6, 2016 at 1:59 am

    I like the pay at the table part.

    But that’s it. Most people SHOULD like this feature. I am NOT comfortable with my credit card leaving the table. They should force people to use it to pay so servers won’t be tempted to take away the cards like at Chili’s or Applebee’s because they feel “it’s easier” than letting me swipe my own card.

  17. Fred Nottingham

    August 10, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    The thing on our table was defective and froze up like some 1990s technology and it took more than a half hour to check out. The Darden exec who devised this one should be perpetually subjected to it.

  18. Craig Morrison

    December 24, 2018 at 10:08 am

    I no longer dine at Olive Garden, Smokey Bones, and now add Applebees to this list. When I go to a restaurant, I prefer to be “waited on” and have someone to ask what the specials are and make recommendations. If I wanted to place my order by tablet, I would simply order on-line and take the food home. But, sadly, they do not offer any food that I can’t make at home myself, so where is the benefit? My opinion is that if I go to a restaurant that has a tablet, because I did not expect it, I ask them to remove it from the table. And, I will no longer dine there in the future.

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Tech News

Five inexpensive VPNs to keep you all sorts of secure

(TECH NEWS) If you work on public internet or are just looking to beef up your internet security VPNs could be your answer. Here are five worth looking into.

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We must speak, as we so often do, of l33t h4x0rz.

Let’s get blunt. We have reached the point in the evolution of technology where access to your personal data is equivalent to access to everything you own. Data security breach, which involves fewer twentysomethings with improbable hair and more Russian state actors than 90s movies led me to believe, can be the end of a business, especially a small one.

Frustratingly, the mainstream market hasn’t really produced perfect solutions for that. At present, you really have two options.

Option one, you roll with AppleFacebookGoogleSoft. Different companies, same model: hand your data to a giant organization with an affirmative interest in keeping it confidential. That can work! It can also, y’know, not. A lot.

Option two, full infogeek. Pull together All The Information and put it behind tight security you control. We’re big fans of this. On the other hand, we’re geeks. Doing this successfully requires knowledge, specialty tools and changes in behavior that may not be practical for you.

Ain’t exactly optimal, those options. So for the love of the white hat, what’s to do? Where’s the middle ground between “put it in a big sack and hand it to HugeCorpCo” and “lock every 0 and 1 in a painstakingly handcrafted box?”

Meet your friend, the VPN. Virtual private networks aren’t just the irritating things you have to sign into before another constructive day on the cube farm. For any entrepreneur or freelancer who isn’t into a rad Linux solution, a VPN is a straight-up necessity. They’re how you Internet without people keeping logs (your ISP does), tracking your activity (everybody does), or carrying off your innocent data to the dark web or the Kremlin.

Better yet? There are lots of good ones that are inexpensive, reliable, and only a Google away. Here’s 5. Unranked, because every VPN is a beautiful snowflake.

IPVanish wins at efficiency. They own 100 percent of their resources, rather than outsourcing any work to third parties. That means high speed and optimal security, since their commitment to keeping zero information on their clients can’t be undercut by nosy contractors.

NordVPN has tech wizardry going for it, with double encryption and even an optional kill switch that automatically disconnects you from the Internet if anything goes amiss with the VPN. Nord also wins at most devices per subscription, and will happily wrap up to 6 of your robots in the warm embrace of infosec.

Private Internet Access, in addition to winning the Most Straightforwardly Named Product Ever award I just made up, is great for power users, with unlimited bandwidth and a subscription allowing up to 5 devices. It’s also super simple, designed to run in the background while you go about your digital day, so for folks who aren’t looking for bundled apps or a shiny interface, this is your guy.

PureVPN gets compatibility cred, since it’s usable across Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows and even provides proxy workarounds for Chrome and Firefox. It also has a frankly enormous server network, which is good news for speed freaks.

TunnelBear, in addition to being adorable, is extremely user friendly. It’s kind of the anti-PIA, with a rich interface and lots of shiny features. Those features include neat security tricks like Intellibear, allowing users to selectively VPN into particular sites, and Vigilant Mode, which makes like Nord and blocks Internet traffic in case of outages.

Snowflake jokes aside, the list really isn’t ranked, and for reason. Your VPN will be your gateway to the Internet. What works for you is totally contingent on what you do and what you need. There are only two definitive rules.

One, never free. A free trial is fine. “Free VPN” is online shorthand for “place all your information in this bucket, which I will then steal, seal and sell to the Internet’s many, many buyers of evil buckets of data.”

Two, it’s a numbers game. There are countless choices for VPNs on the market. The entries on our list offer substantially similar services to dozens of others. What makes our 5 special?

Twelve bucks. The maximum cost of each of the 5 VPNs above is less than twelve dollars per month. Most cost less: spring for a subscription and you can get the average cost down to 2 or 3 dollars monthly. But month to month, no obligation, even the most expensive entry on the list – that’s a tie between NordVPN and PureVPN – costs you less than twelve dollars a month.

Beat that for peace of mind.

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Descript is a mindblowing editing shortcut for audio and video

(TECH NEWS) Descript is an automatic transcription tool that uses machine-learning to make transcribing easier.

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Anyone getting into audio/video editing for the first time is almost immediately struck with the sheer enormity and complexity of it all. Even if you have the physical hardware, the proper software, and the creative spark to produce media, that doesn’t make the process of editing it all into a cohesive product any less daunting. For those of us struggling under the sisyphean weight of complicated editing workflows, a new product aims to relieve us all of this struggle. Enter Descript, an automatic transcription tool.

Descript uses machine-learning to transcribe your raw audio and video files into a dialogue script. This in itself is an incredibly valuable tool for anyone looking to transcribe podcasts, youtube videos, or whatever kind of media you produce. But this is just the beginning of what makes this app so special.

Descript is the world’s first audio word processor. Using the transcript the app creates from your audio, you can edit the text script to change the media itself. Removing the “umms” and “ahhs” from your speech — or removing whole sentences at a time — is as simple as using the backspace key on a word processor.

As a would-be podcaster, I played around with the app over the weekend, so I can tell you my initial impressions of the app. While it’s not for me (not yet, anyway), it is incredibly easy and fun and quite frankly mindblowing to use.

First things first, let’s talk about the cost.

The app works on a subscription model that pays by the minute. New users are able to upload up to 30 minutes of audio for free, but anything past that will require paying 15 cents per minute or signing up for a monthly subscription. Keep in mind these costs apply to total raw audio uploaded, not finished product audio produced. So if you’re the type (like me) to record several hours of audio per week only to trim it down to a single hour of product, this may be a bit on the wasteful side.

As for the transcription itself, the program’s machine-learning transcription transcribed my dulcet tones into the appropriate written words with nearly complete accuracy. I did have a few issues with the program understanding other speakers, but I believe that may have been a fault on my end that I’ll go into later. If the machine-learning transcription isn’t accurate enough for you, you can also choose to pay extra in order to have your audio specially transcribed by real human professionals.

The app can divide audio between different people speaking, but not automatically. If you have different audio files for each speaker, then each audio file will be labeled separately from the start. If multiple speakers are on the same audio track (like mine), then you’ll have to notate these differing speakers in the script yourself. I believe this is why the program had difficulty transcribing other speakers on the audio than myself. Being on the same audio track, the machine attuned itself to my voice (the first speaker on the recording) and was trying to interpret other people’s words as if I were the one saying them.

As for the audio editing aspect of this program, well, it really needs to be experienced to be believed. I was told what the program could do beforehand, but actually editing audio just by changing words around on a script is something else entirely. Cutting out non sequitur sentences, removing unnecessary articles, or even changing the order of words around to better suit the flow of conversation — through a literal word processor — will make you feel like an arcane grammar wizard.

Will this replace your entire audio/video workflow? Probably not. At least not yet. In addition to the cost factor which may be prohibitive to some users, there are some issues of editing that aren’t based on word choice. I found myself frustrated at my inability to change the timing of spaces between words, sometimes leaving gaps between sentences (or not enough space between words). Of course, I only had the program for a weekend, so this could very well be attributed to user error.

Whatever flaws real or imagined this program may have, it’s very important to keep in mind that Descript is the first of its kind.

It can only improve from here, not to mention potentially inspire a wave of similar programs that may very well function better. Whether or not Descript is right for you, what’s undeniable is that this program is the start of something amazing.

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Tech News

IRL Glasses magically block all screens (ads) around you

(TECH) IRL Glasses block out screens, allowing you to enjoy a variety of previously screen-dominated venues in visual peace.

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Screens are pretty much ubiquitous in all but the least-developed parts of America, and getting away from them during a night out usually isn’t easy. If you’re somebody who suffers from screen overload throughout the day, a product called “IRL Glasses” may hold the solution for you.

The concept behind the IRL Glasses is fairly straightforward: they’re a pair of sunglasses made from a material that blocks light specifically from most television, monitor, and mobile device screens, allowing the wearer to experience through a screen-free view a variety of environments which are typically dominated by visual clutter.

For example, someone wearing the IRL Glasses might be able to tolerate the numerous screens lining the wall in a Subway or tune out the closest TV on a sports bar’s patio. The glasses might even come in handy during road trips if you habitually check your phone while driving or find yourself distracted by screens along the way.

It’s clear that the primary intention for the IRL Glasses is to prevent unwanted screen exposure, but the glasses actually have a less self-aware application: screen addiction treatment. In theory, people hoping to cut down on involuntary screen use could don these glasses to help remind them that they’re in a no-screens period of the day.

Regardless of how you decide to use the IRL Glasses, however, the basic principle is definitely conducive to better eye health and substantially less unwanted news exposure.

There are still a couple of inherent problems with the glasses’ design, chief among which is the fact that they’re sunglasses by default. While the material used to facilitate the glasses’ function is naturally tinted, one can easily make the point that wearing a pair of IRL Glasses while indoors is inconvenient (not to mention tacky). Obviously, a non-tinted model—if possible—would solve this issue.

Another less-obvious problem is that the lens material doesn’t actually block all screens. While LCD, LED, and CRT screens will show up as black when viewed through the IRL Glasses, OLED screens—the screens found on some Android phones and the newer iPhone X line—will still show up like usual.

IRL Glasses are currently in development via Kickstarter, but given that they’ve wildly exceeded their funding goal, they’re projected to be available mid-2019 for less than $100.

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