Restaurateur Bringing 7,000 iPads to Airports: "We're Seeing 15-20% Revenue Boost"

Summary:I interviewed Rick Blatstein, founder and CEO of OTG Management, who says lending iPads calms travelers, "electrifies" the vibe of his airport restaurants, and raises sales.

To order, customers use an app on the iPads that was originally developed for OTG by the Control Group. The app is now maintained by OTG's developers in New York City, who can push out updates to Mac Mini servers hidden inside the tables on which the iPads stand, at a ratio of one Mac Mini for every six iPads. Indeed, when you add everything up, the iPads themselves only comprise a small percentage of OTG's overall investment.

Asked about his ROI projections, Blatstein would only say that "We are very happy with the way things are going."

Putting my skeptical hat on, I asked Blatstein whether OTG encountered problems during its 18-month pilot with iPads that were stolen, damaged or became greasy from customers' fingers.

"Fortunately, nobody has stolen or damaged any," claimed Blatstein of the iPads, which are connected to the same sort of tethers used in Apple Stores. While OTG restaurant servers do need to do some "extra maintainance" such as wipe down the iPad screens, they are not required to act as police and watch for thieves, he said.

 I also asked Blatstein if as a former nightclub guy, if he worried that encouraging patrons to stare at screens would kill the atmosphere of his restaurants.

"This is an issue that is near and dear to me. I was definitely worried about that," he said. Instead, what he's found so far is that iPads "add electricity to a room. What you see are a lot of people talking to each other. They do 'the lean' over to another customer to talk about something they read on an iPad, and that causes more social interaction than we had before."

Apple itself was "very supportive" about OTG's efforts and helped connect Blatstein's team to some partners, he said. If the 7,000 iPad rollout is successful, OTG could roll out as many as 25,000 to 100,000 iPads over the next few years (making it the largest iPad enterprise rollout ever, see my list).

Blatstein is so loyal that he "doesn't foresee" adding Android tablets like the Google Nexus.

Have you tried out one of OTG's airport iPads? How was your experience?

Topics: Enterprise Software, Apple, CXO, iPad, Mobility, Tablets


Eric Lai tracks the latest news and trends in enterprise mobility. A veteran tech journalist most recently covering enterprise software for Computerworld, Eric joined Sybase, an SAP company in April 2010. Eric's views are his alone and do not necessarily represent those of SAP. This blog is sponsored by SAP.

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