Tag Archives: Ziosk

What Exactly are Table Stakes Today?

Is digital always better? Especially in terms of signage?

From my perspective – one that is pretty dialed into the digital signage/digital Out of Home (DOOH) industry – I often feel like there is a misguided notion that digital is always better. Yes, digital can deliver more messages and adjust based on time of day, demographic, and/or location, but more and even more targeted messages don’t necessarily translate into better. To me, it’s all about how good that message is and whether or not it enables an opportunity for the consumer to be driven deeper into the brand.

A few weeks ago, my friends Will Amos and Kyle Porter from NanoLumens sent me a link to a new table top digital signage solution intended for casual dining restaurants. It’s a decent looking product and I can imagine the network (COMMCaddy Network) is an efficient way for restaurants to deploy and change specials, offers, etc. Here’s a static shot of the CommCaddy:


I’ve also worked with and seen an interactive table top solution for the same type of restaurants. It, too, provides an efficient way to deploy and change specials, offers, etc. Patrons can even pay from this Ziosk device. Here’s a static shot of the Ziosk:

Ziosk | TableTopMedia

While both of these solutions – and any digital solution, for that matter – can create efficiencies, cut a whole slew of costs and ultimately help to drive more sales (by serving up images of drinks or desserts, for instance), I just wonder if they’re addressing the real need? Which, to me, is to drive loyalty, deepen the brand experience, and get patrons to come in again. From this perspective, digital has nothing to do with it. And message and connection have everything to do with it.

Last night, I saw this boring, laminated table top sign at Houlihans.

Houlihans Table Tent

While I understand that these examples seemingly have a different purpose on the table, I’ll go back to the real need. Is it to drive sales or deeper connection?

The answer is both. I know.

But when you think about table stakes in today’s always-on, digitally-driven world, in casual dining restaurants like this – what’s most important to have? Something digital? Or something that enables connections?

I think the industry (and restaurants within) should take a look at what Houlihans does, with its non-digital, boring little laminated table top sign. They focus on staying connected. Specifically through:

  1. Mailing list – It’s the first thing on the sign. And you can do it just by asking your server for a “sign-up slip.”
  2. Mobile – The next thing on the sign. Text a short code in to receive specials. And just by signing up, get a free mini dessert.
  3. Social – Twitter & Facebook identities right out in front to connect with the brand in their social channels.
  4. Geo-location – Fourquare specials here. And it’s one of the only restaurants like this that I’ve eaten at that provide specials for checking in (it’s good, too).

I have no idea what restaurants choose to show on digital screens at the table, if in fact they have them. The ones that I’ve witnessed myself, and then seen through their own advertisements, miss this connection point completely. There is value in having such an efficient display system, for sure. But if the message is all about food, food, food (or, really, sell, sell, sell), I believe patrons aren’t going to feel one way or another about your brand, especially as it relates to your fancy digital table top solution. They might buy more food when they’re sitting there that one time. And maybe even next time, if they come in. But in the end, that’s all they’re doing. They’re not connecting to the brand, which can impact the way they feel about the brand, and ultimately drive loyalty.

There is a simple notion that cannot be misguided – people, in some way, want to be connected. So, shouldn’t table stakes in today’s casual dining restaurant world be all about those connections and not the technology?







Table Top Media Chosen for PepsiCo’s Incubator Program

Before FH, I worked with a start-up company called Table Top Media as a consultant, of sorts. I was never employed by them, but I had the privilege of working closely with their senior leadership for a few months. Last week, I heard some great news that should help put them on the map and hopefully, get their product in front of people sooner rather than later.

First, just a bit about the company and the product – Table Top Media is a company based here in Dallas that was started by a restaurateur, Jack Baum. They developed a product called the “Ziosk” that was designed to facilitate a more convenient check-out process for patrons in casual dining restaurants. This Ziosk is a small, wireless touchscreen kiosk that sits on each table in the dining room and allows patrons to access their receipt and pay via credit/debit card right there at the table. It’s a smart concept. How many times have you waited at a restaurant for your server to come and swipe your card at the end of your meal? As a father of 3 little ones, when our meal is over, it’s time to leave. Often times, though, we’re held hostage by the restaurant because the server is too busy to get us our check and pay us out IMMEDIATELY after we’ve finished our meal. Ziosk takes that waiting out of the mix.

But the Ziosk goes way beyond this specific utility. The platform, itself, (TTM designs and produces the hardware and software) is flexible enough to be turned into a straight-up utility machine, integrating with the restaurant’s POS, complete with interactive menus, ordering capabilities, timed drink/food requests (based on the original order), and loyalty program tie-ins. Or it can be turned into a more experience-type machine, complete with up-to-date news feeds, sports scores, interactive games and entertainment (especially for kids my little ones’ ages, this feature infinitely improves our dining experience), and social features, be it geo-location integration, Facebook and Twitter feeds, or even cross-store, cross-region gaming and communication. Not to mention unique advertising opportunities, both for the restaurant and other 3rd party advertisers/brands. It’s a very cool product – check it out:

The major barrier they face is obviously an operational one – these casual dining restaurants are being forced to think about their workflow differently and opening up more of a gateway to their infrastructure.  It also has server (waiter) implications being that this machine can do many of their functions.  Ironically, it can free them (and the restaurant for that matter) up to do what they need to, like make sure food is good and drinks are filled.

Anyway….the good news – this year, PepsiCo launched a program for start-ups called PepsiCo10, a “incubator program that matches technology, media and communications entrepreneurs with PepsiCo brands for pilot programs” – and last week, announced that Table Top Media was one of the 10 chosen start-ups for the program! This is, no doubt, huge for them. They’ve worked long and hard to get traction and this should give them a platform to show the power and potential of their product.

This is a true IOOH solution and really, a device that makes sense. I’ve seen (and reviewed here) many that don’t, but the Ziosk serves a useful purpose and can add to the dining experience. This is something that I would interact with myself and tell other people about. It deserves a chance and now, thanks to all their hard work and perseverance, they might just be getting the “big one” through this program.

Disclaimer – TTM did not ask me to write this and I am not getting paid to do so.  I am writing this because I believe in their product and I’m always happy to hear and spread good news.