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Buffalo Wild Wings testing Apple's iPad for quicker customer ordering

Restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings is expanding a pilot program in which customers place orders for food and drinks via Apple's iPad right from their table.

The iPads are protected in rugged cases from Hubworks, and have already been tested at a Toronto location, but are now moving in to a Minneapolis restaurant. Tim Murphy, director of international business for Buffalo Wild Wings, confirmed the details to Computerworld.

"Ultimately we are trying to use the technology to enhance the customer experience," Murphy said. "People are familiar with iPads, iPhones and Android tablets, so this would enhance that."

In addition to being able to order food and drinks, the iPads also enable customers to check their Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as play games. Buffalo Wild Wings has a total of 830 locations worldwide.

The chain hopes to determine through testing whether the iPads would be better used for entertainment or for purchases. If entertainment becomes one of the primary uses, the restaurant could begin selling advertising to display on the iPads.

By allowing customers to order directly from an iPad, it will free up the restaurant staff to do other tasks like promote food or drinks, or interact with more guests. The case from Hubworks has a charger built into its protective case, giving the iPad 12 to 15 hours of battery life, and it also features a credit card reader for authorizing transactions.

Buffalo Wild Wings isn't the first to use the iPad as a high-tech menu. In another high-profile usage case, last year Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas ship was outfitted to give access to vacationers to an iPad in their cabin, allowing them to use it for a variety of functions around the ship, including room service and restaurant menus.