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Tablets, but not iPads, are coming to chain restaurants

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Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chain restaurants love tablets: they boost tips, increase dessert orders, and can even sell games to bored kids for an extra few dollars. But rather than opting for an off-the-shelf tablet like an iPad or a Nexus 7, restaurants have been opting for restaurant-specific models from lesser-known companies like Ziosk and E La Carte. This month, Chili's announced it was purchasing 45,000 Ziosk tablets to distribute across more than 800 restaurants nationwide, the largest tablet network of its kind so far. "By this fall, guests at nearly every Chili's in the country can place orders, play games and pay their checks from our tabletop tablets," the Ziosk CEO said in a statement.

Smaller networks are already in place at Applebee's and Pizzeria Uno, suggesting an industry-wide trend. So why are restaurants opting for Ziosk and its competitors over commercial tablets? According to Businessweek, the answer is a combination of specific feature requests like removable batteries and more general concerns. "iPads in a restaurant environment are not a good fit," E la Carte founder Rajat Suri told Businessweek. "They tend to break. They tend to get stolen."