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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Tablet computers ease manpower needs of restaurants

Companies turn to IT to help solve their manpower problems
The Straits Times - February 11, 2012
By: Cherie Thio
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Tablet computers ease manpower needs of restaurants -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

A SMALL but increasing number of restaurants here are turning to tablet computers to help solve their manpower problems.

Over the past year, restaurants like Fish & Co and Genki Sushi have been serving customers using iPads or similar tablets loaded with digital menus and an ordering system. This helps them save on manpower costs and increases efficiency, they say.

It also allows them to get round the stricter criteria for foreigners' work permits introduced in the past couple of years.

'Our service staff have more time to engage the customers by offering other value-added services, such as offering assistance in other inquiries,' said Mr Paul Wu, public relations representative for Fish & Co.

Joining their ranks this week is Gayatri, an Indian restaurant in Race Course Road, which launched its e-menu ordering system using Samsung tablets on Thursday. It has embarked on the project together with Spring Singapore and Butterfly Global, which provides the technology that powers the e-menus.

'It will help us save about 10 per cent to 15 per cent in manpower costs and we can employ fewer waiters,' said Mr Ganesan Shanmugam, the restaurant owner. With this new system, he said, it will need to employ only 80 per cent of the waiters it is employing now. Staff can then be deployed to work in other jobs in the restaurant.

Manpower costs were also identified as a big challenge in a speech by Mr Viswa Sadasivan, a board member of Spring Singapore, who was present at the launch. With the stricter criteria for foreign permit applicants, restaurants need to think of alternatives and this could be one of them, he said.

With the new ordering system at Gayatri, a waiter presents diners with a 25cm tablet loaded with the restaurant menu when they walk in. They can browse through vivid pictures of the food and select what they want. When they are done, a waiter then sends the order to the kitchen with a click of a button.

The restaurant is already planning for a second phase where its menus will come in three other languages - Chinese, Thai and Japanese - to target its large tourist clientele. It also wants to include a wireless payment system so customers can pay by just inputting their credit card details into the tablet.

This project taps on Spring Singapore's capability development scheme. The agency will help to fund up to 50 per cent of consultancy, manpower and equipment costs. Three more restaurants are also set to take part in the pilot project.

'I am confident that this will help us make more money, engage fewer staff, increase accuracy and productivity,' said Mr Shanmugam.



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