Applebee’s Learns to Read Your Mind with ESP

A recent trip to an Applebee’s Restaurant in Ft. Wayne, Indiana yielded a great 100% Angus burger and a new mobile technology experience.  Applebee’s has implemented a pager system for their patrons to improve the overall quality of the dining experience.  The system, developed by ESP Systems, requires the use a small pager at every table which customers can press to request assistance.  When the circular area of the pager is pressed, the server’s watch-like wristband vibrates and indicates a table has paged them.  This improves the speed of service and provides a much easier way to get a refill. 

According to ESP Systems, 60% of customers say that ESP impacts their future dining decisions.  They also cite the number one reason why guests decide not to return for a second dining experience as slow or unavailable service.  When you are seated at your table, the host presses a button on their wristband that wirelessly communicates with the pager and tells it that the table is occupied for dining.  That information is then relayed to the host station where a computer monitors all of the tables and keeps the host aware of each table’s status.  That information is also relayed to the server’s wristband and indicates that new patrons have arrived.  When the server arrives, they slip a small poker-chip-like disc into the pager unit.  This syncs the server with the pager unit and allows for communication between the patron and server when they are not visible.


The ESP System provides better communication between the server, bar, and kitchen by identifying when drinks or food items are prepared for delivery.  The server’s wristband vibrates and indicates which table and a symbol for food or drinks.  The wristband looks like a black, plastic watch and has a small black-and-white LCD screen that is capable of displaying symbols.

Benefits of using the ESP System in a restaurant environment:

  • The host is easily able to identify empty tables and increase the speed at which people are seated. 
  • Patrons have better access to their server for assistance, refills, or any needed items.
  • No more waiting for 20 minutes before getting your bill.
  • Better coordination between the host, server, bar, kitchen, and busser.
  • Servers are able to communicate with each other through the ESP wristband.
  • Restaurant managers are better able to coordinate services to guests and monitor in-house activity.
  • Managers are able to track performance data on every employee involved with the ESP System.

While this may appear as a blessing for needy patrons, it could be a nightmare for servers.  No more sneaking out back for smoke breaks, and angry customers, young kids, and immature teenagers could make the ESP System more like a dog shocking-collar than a helpful, friendly device.  Either way, ESP Systems has set out to fix what they believe to be a broken model of restaurant service.  Look for the ESP System to be implemented in Applebee’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, and Fatz Cafe chains.


ESP Systems has a cartoon-like flash demo that explains the ESP System in-depth.


Have you had any experience with the ESP System.  How will technology solutions like this change our eating experiences for the better?