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

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: ÜberTech, Apple, CXO, iPad, Mobility, Tablets

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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  • Break even point

    What is the break even point of deploying all this technology? That would be my concern.

    Really not surprising. Studies show that patrons paying with credit cards usually buy more than cash customers.
    • @mstrsfty...

      At an additional $1.20 to $2 per customer, considering how many people pass through airports and are limited in choices of food, I'd say the payoff shouldn't be too long in coming.
    • Go technology!

      Windows 8 in the clouds: Emirates giving 1,000 flight attendants HP ElitePad tablets!

      From GeekWire


      The Emirates official Youtube channel made a video of how they are using Windows 8 in the airport.

  • Just like the creation...

    of the Internet made outsourcing to India possible, and Sarbanes-Oxley spying created the market for portable iPads with data modems, the iPad as an ordering device is the restauranteur's solution to the health care mandate. iPads don't require health care benefits! THERE is your return in investment!
    Tony Burzio
  • Just curious...

    What is an "in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise"?
    Hallowed are the Ori
  • Just think...

    How dirty those screens will get from french fry fingers. A sanitation nightmare.
    • After dematerialization, dehumanization?

      All the data seems correct to me, almost expected.
      Airports are very low quality spaces, where people just go by, normally thinking about their destinations.
      I just hope the commom business won't start the same trend of getting rid of people to have machines helping customers in the choice and payment processes. I like people, I know I'm out of fashion, but I truly like to be served by people, even better when they have a personality.
      Miguel Tavares
      • You may be in the minority

        You make a great point about the priorities of customers at airports.

        Fast food restaurants seem to be another obvious place for using iPads or computers for ordering/paying.

        As for other kinds of restaurants, my experience is that I only have a few family-run places or local cafes where I start to have 'real' interaction with the hosts/waiters. But it takes at least half a dozen visits, usually.

        Otherwise, my interactions with waitstaff at the majority of restaurants I go to tend to be stilted and forced, like when I'm paying for groceries, etc. I don't think I'm particularly Aspergers-ish in this regard....
        • Ehhhhh . . .

          you might be!
          • Fair point.

            My family might agree with you on this :)
  • If the fastfood inustry implements iPads...

    ...then the fast food restaurants will be worth the heist :)
    Just saying...I saw nothing LOL.