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Hubworks uses iPads to help restaurant customers order food

We've posted before about Hubworks, a company based in Idaho that develops consumer-facing solutions for ordering food and interacting with servers at restaurants via iPads. Most of Apple's sales are directly to consumers, but Hubworks is just one company of many that's getting more involved in business-to-business sales of Apple products. These companies are the main reason you're soon going to see iPads used in kiosks and sales environments all over the world.

Hubworks' VP of sales and marketing, Aaron Gabriel, told me, "In the next six months this is something that people will be able to go and see in their local environments." Currently, Hubworks is working on big deals with a few big "large international chains" of restaurants, with pilot programs and trials currently underway to check out how viable these iPad solutions can be. But Gabriel is convinced the iPad has a place in the retail and food sales environments.

Hubworks uses its own special case for the iPad. The unit hooks up to Apple's tablet through the dock connector. It contains a credit card slider unit to charge customers and plugs into a point of sale system already working at the restaurants to deliver food and drink orders back to the kitchen. Hubworks has developed its own app to do that, though the iPad can have other apps or games running on it as well.

The unit also has a battery pack that allows the iPad to be used for up to 18 hours. While the company hasn't squared away a security solution yet, Gabriel says, "we haven't had any problems thus far." Eventually there will probably be sensors on the iPads to let restaurant management know if they've been carried out the door by less-than-honest customers.

Why haven't we seen this solution implemented on a wide scale yet? Gabriel says most of the biggest restaurant chains "just want to see it develop a bit" first and would like to "gather some performance metrics" before widespread deployment. In other words, restaurants are interested in giving iPads to customers, but don't want to be the first to do so. Gabriel is convinced that once these chains see a successful program in action, they'll all jump in on the idea. "These first deals are very important," he says.

Once we do see these iPads in stores, Gabriel says there are more benefits than just the customers getting to play with Apple's tablets. Some servers were worried that with customers ordering from the iPad their tips would go down, but Gabriel says, "the average check size is going up" at restaurants where the customers use iPads to order their food and drink. With service that's quicker and ordering that's easier than ever, servers have more time to talk and customers buy more food than usual.

That's the kind of stat that could really kick these programs into more widespread use. It may be only a matter of time before you're given a menu at your local chain restaurant printed on an iPad.

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