To research his business idea—an in-restaurant tablet for ordering—E la Carte founder Rajat Suri dropped out of MIT and waited tables at a local restaurant. One day some former classmates walked in. "I had to serve them," remembers Suri. "There was an awkward silence, and I could see them thinking that they better study harder or else this would be them one day." But Suri came out just fine: He developed a tablet for restaurant tables called Presto that increases sales by up to 25%—so much so that Applebee’s ordered 100,000 of them, and Johnny Rockets is now using them at 200 restaurants.
- Tap to eat: Customers order food on the tablet—and then some. Checks are an average of 25% higher.
- Wait and play: Diners can play trivia or memory games, or add music to the restaurant’s communal queue.
- Pay and leave: No checks. Johnny Rockets says the tablets helped cut bill paying from eight to two minutes.
Illustration: Chris Philpot
With Presto, diners can order food and beverages on demand, play games while they wait for their plates, and then pay the check without having to flag down a waiter. Why do restaurants want this? "The tablet never forgets to upsell," explains Suri. "People who order on Presto are 25% more likely to get upsold." And Johnny Rockets adopted the technology because its restaurants were able to serve 11% more people on any given night during its pilot-testing program. "Before implementing E la Carte, we reviewed market research surveys and discovered that customers would downgrade five-star reviews if it took too long for them to receive the check," says Johnny Rockets’ VP of information technology Lacy Morris. "With Presto, it now takes our customers an average of two minutes to pay their bills as compared to the industry average of eight minutes." Every win for a restaurant is also a win for Suri. E la Carte owns the Presto tablets and earns recurring user fees from clients.
Now Suri is setting his sights on more casual restaurants—and upscale ones, too. "If you talk to anyone in the restaurant industry, they’re not going to doubt it," he says.
Founder Rajat Suri spent the first 18 months of his business working at Asgard, a local Irish pub near MIT, to develop Presto. He gave customers an early incarnation of the tablet and then made technical changes to the device between orders, based on the suggestions of the guests. The finished version of the tablet is still used at the pub today.
[Photo: courtesy of E La Carte]