The Sneaky Reason Chili's Has Tablets At Every Table

If you've ever been to a Chili's, you've probably noticed that, among the Tex-Mex flair, every table has a tablet. People use them for all sorts of things, from letting kids play dollar games to help keep them occupied to folks browsing the menu to see what sort of appetizers they'd like to order. Sure, it's probably not a sight you'd think twice about. After all, Applebee's installed tablets at all US locations back in 2013, via Nation's Restaurant News, and Olive Garden introduced them back in 2015, via FSR Magazine). For as far as you know, the tablets are mainly there to let you put in your order if your waiter or waitress isn't around.

Of course, there's another reason that Chili's puts those tablets there, and the truth is that it may be influencing you in a subconscious way. According to a recent report, the device actually operates the same way a commercial or a roadside billboard does — and you don't even know it.

Chili's tablets can influence you to buy more

Have you ever been driving down a highway and saw a billboard for Cracker Barrel and realized you're suddenly in the mood for biscuits and chicken? Ever caught a commercial for Pizza Hut and found yourself craving breadsticks? This is the type of psychological persuasion that Chili's tablets want to do, according to Eat This, Not That. As you eat, pictures of desserts — cheesecakes and cookies abound — flash by you, subconsciously tempting you towards that dessert you didn't know you wanted. 

Reuters describes a businessman who, although planning to spend only $40 dollars at a Las Vegas restaurant, became enticed to spend almost four times that amount — all thanks to the electronic tablet at his table. Yet rather than be upset, the man seemed impressed, claiming the tablet had done exactly was it meant to do: generate income. Just how exactly can a simple machine, billboard, or commercial lure us so easily? Psychology Today promotes the idea that such advertising tactics are meant to prime the viewer to become hungry and to associate pleasure with eating. You remember how delicious your meal was and how good you felt eating it, so why not feel that way again by ordering more food? 

While this isn't a slam piece or shocking expose on Chili's by any means, maybe it's best to be a little more careful of an "outside influence" next time you go out to eat.