Delivering food to the table or pouring a cup of coffee is about the only thing it can't do.
The iPad takes an order, sends it to the chef and lets the waiter know when it's done at the Florentine Restaurant. And forget about paper. At True West Coffee, a customer's receipt is sent by text to their phone.
The popularity of tablet devices such as the iPad is helping increase efficiency at area businesses and influencing learning for students at local school districts.
That widespread use is projected to nearly double sales of the devices worldwide to 119 million units this year, and then triple sales to about 369 million units in 2016, according a report released this week by Gartner Inc., an international information technology research and advisory company.
By 2015, about 35 percent of tablet sales will be for business use, Gartner said.
When Chris and Vanessa Cannon opened True West Coffee in Hamilton late last year, they outfitted the eatery with an iPad for a cash register, plus a wireless cash box and printer.
"I think we spent $1,100 on all the hardware for it," Chris Cannon said. "It was a huge cost savings for us rather than buying a full point-of-sale system. A full point-of-purchase system could be up to $8,000."
Deborah Turner, special-education coordinator for Middletown, said tablet devices are good motivators for students.
She said her department has deployed about 90 iPads since April 2011 to special-education teachers and related staff. It's her hope that all 106 staff members in the realm of special education have an iPad, including school psychologists and therapists.
"If kids do their work, they can play a math game," Turner said. "The primary use is for the students to gain 21st-century skills and understand technology."
For businesses, using technology can mean cost savings and increased efficiency.
True West uses a free app from a company called Square to tap in an order, whether a transaction is cash or credit. If it is credit, customers swipe their cards through a free Square reader, which wirelessly connects to the restaurant's cash box.
Customers then sign the screen with their finger and a receipt is either printed, texted or emailed.
"We barely print receipts," Cannon said.
Further sweetening the deal, True West avoids monthly fees associated with a point-of-sale system and pays only a 2.75 percent rate to Square per card swipe regardless of the credit card company's established and sometimes higher rate.
Entering items for a business is simple, Cannon said.
"You just input your menu ... type in the price and save it and it comes up as a little icon within our menu," Cannon said.
"Actually, if you really want to get into it, you can put photographs in (of each item) and the person entering the order can just tap on the order."
Josh Green, owner of Culinetwork, a local company delivering technology to restaurants and hotels, said he can hardly keep up with orders for the new technology.
"This is the beginning of the future," said Green, who specializes in installing the POSLavu point-of-sale system for businesses.
A mention of the system on Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares" last fall sent business owners nationwide scurrying to their search engines to find someone who could install the system. That attracted a slew of new customers for Culinetwork, Green said.
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