At Your Service on the Table: Impact of Tabletop Technology on Restaurant Performance

Publication Date



Some industries such as healthcare and financial services have reported significant productivity gains from introduction of new technologies. However, more traditional, labor-intensive industries are lagging behind. We use granular data to examine the impact of a customer-facing technology (a tabletop device that facilitates the table service process) on the check size and meal duration aspects of restaurant performance. The restaurant chain in our study implemented tabletop devices in a staggered manner, offering us a quasi-experimental setting in which to apply a difference-in-difference technique and identify the causal effect of the technology. We find that the tabletop technology is likely to improve average sales per check by 2.91% and reduce the meal duration by 9.74%, which increases the sales per minute or sales productivity by approximately 10.77%. Various robustness checks of our empirical strategy and post-hoc analyses find that efficient customers, who have lower cost of adopting new technology, generate more sales and have shorter meal duration than the inefficient customers do. Tabletop technology allows low-ability waiters to improve their performance more significantly than high-ability waiters. Overall, our results indicate great potential for introducing tabletop technology in a large service industry that currently lacks digitalization.

Document Type



technology innovation; self-service technology; labor productivity; restaurant operations, service operations


Business Administration, Management, and Operations




SMU Cox: IT & Operations Management (Topic)