Hos(pad)ality: The Tablet Takes on Hospitality

Aynne Valencia

Enter a hotel or walk into your local cafe and more than likely, you’ll see an iPad. There are a few reasons why this is happening, and some unexpected and delightful consequences that are emerging as a result.


Speciality’s, a popular chain in the business district of San Francisco, has reconfigured its ordering area to accommodate several new iPads. A guest comes in, swipes their credit card, and places their order directly on the touch screen. The order is then passed to the staff who fulfill the order.

This simple system allows for fewer people to staff the register, and lowers the possibility of misunderstandings about custom orders.

One feature even gives visitors the ability to name their creations, which has provoked some unintended delight for the staff who enjoy the creativity some patrons have expressed.

Low cost of hardware, low maintenance, and flexibility 

Ritual Roasters, a local San Francisco coffee chain, was one of the first adopters of Square Register, a service that allows businesses to accept credit cards, provide loyalty rewards, and do transaction analytics. Ritual has iPads poised on elegant wooden stands that swivel when needed to allow a visitor to sign for their transaction. The cost of investment is a few iPads, and the service. This replaces the care and maintenance of expensive registers, register tapes, and merchant credit card clearing services.

Beyond retail, the hotel industry is rapidly turning to iPads. The Hard Rock Hotel, The Four Seasons, The Viceroy, and Hotel Americano in New York are among hotels now using iPads for guests to order room service and even to control in-room entertainment on the Runtriz platform, which offers content management and analytics.

New ways to “clientele” visitors

Probably one of the most compelling reasons why the hospitality industry is turning to iPads is the ease of creating rich data profiles on visitors. By interacting with a smart system, a guest automatically creates a profile. Each visit allows a business to learn more and more about that patron’s preferences and behaviors. This is an easy way to create compelling offers, offer incentives for repeat visits, or even monitor and respond to consumer behavioral trends with new products, services, and special offers.

Looking ahead

We see this as only the beginning. As the cost of tablet devices becomes more affordable and the availability of wifi more ubiquitous, we will see more and more tablets replacing printed materials and cumbersome remote controls and cash registers. This is a true service design opportunity. Not only does this open up exciting avenues for the device experience, but it also creates new ways for staff to interact with customers. It allows them to focus on the most important and meaningful part of the hospitality industry: cultivating and maintaining relationships.

Aynne Valencia

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