Few dining experiences are more uncomfortable than running out of things to say to the person sitting across from you. To help bridge that lull, Applebee’s is rolling out tablet computers at all of its restaurants so diners can totally ignore each other without the slightest twinge of guilt. The catch? You have to eat at Applebee’s.
In addition to giving you a more enticing way to ponder the relative merits of the chain’s 960-calorie triple chocolate meltdown versus its 880-calorie apple chimi cheesecake, the 7-inch tablets will also let you play video games throughout the meal (for a dollar) and pay your check electronically, Applebee’s spokesperson Dan Smith confirmed to TIME. On Tuesday, the chain will announce the rollout of the Intel-powered Presto tablets, made by startup E La Carte in Silicon Valley, at all 1,680 of its U.S. restaurants, with nearly 100,000 of the devices on tables by the end of next year. “We’re trying to put control in the guests’ hands,” says Smith.
While you can order appetizers and desserts with the tablets, for now you can’t use them to select your main course. Instead, a waiter will walk over to your table, hand you a printed menu, then come back to take your order – just like the olden days. That nostalgic touch might seem a bit odd, until you realize that fully-automated ordering could eliminate the last vestiges of a typical sit-down restaurant experience — leaving you even more alone with your dinner companion.