Updated: February 8, 2014 at 10:28 am
The restaurant building is about 70 years old. Some of the Native American wall art inside has faded.
One of the few signs of modern times inside the Western Omelette on South Walnut Street is the flat-screen TV - until one of the restaurant's servers pulls out her iPad mini to take an order.
Western Omelette is not the only Colorado Springs restaurant using the iPad to swipe credit cards or take customers' orders. But it is one of the few, if not the only one, using the Apple tablet and the point-of-sales program it runs to operate almost every aspect of its business, including tracking sales, inventory, food service times and empty tables, and monitoring its closed-circuit video cameras.
Western Omelette's general manager and co-owner Russell Borders introduced the iPads to his staff in October. Before that, servers had to write the order on paper, go to the service area and find food prices, add them by hand, then take the paper to the kitchen.
"This saves me a lot of steps," server Tammy Rinehart said.
But the iPads' benefits to Rinehart and Borders go far beyond saving Western Omelette's wait staff steps. The iPads have reduced food order and placement times and nearly eliminated ordering errors. Servers place customers' orders while at the table, and the orders go to a printer in the kitchen. That means cooks can start preparing one customer's food while Rinehart is still taking orders at the same table. The process has cut the time it takes to get food to customers by 76 percent, Borders said. Order times on the weekends that once averaged 30 minutes now average seven.
"We have had customers order, and their food arrive, and they have told our servers, 'that is not our food,'" Borders said. "And the waitress has said, 'Yes it is,' and they say, 'But we just ordered.'"
The faster times have meant larger profits for Rinehart and Western Omelette's owners. Rinehart estimates she is selling about $100 more in food per day, which helps build tips. Borders says his eatery's profits have increased by about 15 percent since November.
Pete Meersman, president of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said Western Omelette is on the cutting edge in the industry. He said running business operations from tablets and the cloud is the future of restaurant business.
"There are more and more companies out there developing apps to do control inventory, order your wholesale products and inventory everything in the store by bar code," Meersman said.
Borders had looked at other point-of-sale programs, but they cost between $15,000 to $30,000, and none allowed him to view information outside the store.
Then he found the iPads.
Borders bought eight 16-gigabyte iPad minis for his wait staff and got his point-of-sales program for less than $5,000. The tablets allow Borders to operate his business when traveling because the iPads store his data on the cloud.
"I like to run a tight ship, and I want to know what is happening at the restaurant when I want to know," Borders said.
Rinehart called Western Omelette a "fast paced, high volume restaurant," and said the iPads' speed has helped reduce some of the workplace stress.
"At the end of the day my sales are always higher than I expect them to be because it doesn't feel like I worked that hard compared to before," she said.
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275