At first glance, it looks like those plastic triangles you see on so many restaurant tables, right by the salt and pepper shakers. You know, the things that hold cards that display what’s for dessert or drink specials of the week.
Except, on closer inspection, it’s not that at all. There’s a charging cord and a USB port. On each side is a screen. Touch the screen, and you can scroll the restaurant’s menu. There’s a prompt to call for the server. And, you can even pay the bill using the device.
There are sponsor messages, too. So, there’s a benefit to restaurants having these devices on their tables, an added revenue stream from advertising.
The devices were invented by Edmonton-born company Oongalee, founded by Jared Milligan, Karan Sareen and Amrit Sagoo. The company just announced a partnership with Century Hospitality Group; Oongalee will place around 100 of its devices in CHG restaurants across the city. It also has plans to put them in 56 Denny’s locations around the country. There are partnerships with restaurants in Vancouver and Toronto.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we thought that this technology would be very well accepted,” says Milligan. “For restaurants, this is another potential revenue stream to make up for lost business.”
At first, the partners’ idea was to provide charging stations for devices at restaurants. The thinking was that we’re all married to our devices; when the batteries run low, we actually get skittish, and could even leave a restaurant early. By offering charging stations, the restaurants could get diners to stay longer.
“You feel naked without your phone,” says Milligan. “There’s lots of anxiety that comes with a low battery.”
The devices were launched in May of 2020. The deal is simple; in exchange for allowing the devices to be placed in their restaurants, owners get a piece of the ad revenue. As well, they can use the devices to also display menus, specials, drinks and promotions. And, the customer can use them to ask for service or pay without having to say, “Cheque, please!”
“The future is to put the customer experience in the hands of the customer,” says Milligan.
The devices can also charge up to four phones at a time.
Milligan says the devices have also been used at charity dinners, where they flash what’s up for silent auction, or stories about the people who will benefit from the money being raised.
Milligan says Oongalee is also working on an AI platform that will learn each diner’s favourites, and help make recommendations when they eat out.