Tablet Du Jour: How an Israeli Startup Is Putting Tech on Restaurants’ Menus

Tabit’s mobile-based system handles everything from reservations to menus and delivery

A Tabit tablet in action.
Shelly Matityahu

At the 400 restaurants and cafes in Israel and the United States that use Tabit’s technology, waiters never write down on order on a notepad. Diners are never told the dish they ordered isn’t available or surprised to discover their order hasn’t been cooked the way they like. 

At Tabit restaurants, the diners can rely on the waiter to recommend the wine the chef thinks goes best with the dish and know which menu items are customer favorites. And if the customer still isn’t satisfied, he has an easy way to rate the food and service.

All of that, and quite a few other solutions, is made possible by Tabit, an Israeli startup that was formed four years ago but has kept a low profile until now. Its all-in-one solution for restaurants makes use of tablets and smartphones to replace an array of cash registers, notepads, websites, online delivery services and telephones.

“If, for example, the diner orders a dish, ‘Should I add cilantro?’ can be a mandatory question on the interface for the waiter because too many times an order has been sent back because for that reason,” said Nadav Solomon, Tabit’s chief operating officer and cofounder. “Or the waiter suggests a wine, but a specific wine that fits the meal he just typed in and that the chef thinks it will go with dish.”

All of this appears on the waiter’s tablet with prompts and reminders, as well as information on the people he is waiting on.

Tabit offers eight interfaces that operate on a tablet or smartphone, which provide functions from reservations to ordering food at the table or for delivery. Others help manage the kitchen and allow the owner or manager to see how the entire operation is doing in real time.

The startup arose from a 2014 meeting between Solomon and Barry Shaked, who brings a combination of retail, food and high-tech experienced to the table.

Shaked, Tabit’s 62-year-old CEO, led the Israeli retail-tech company Retalix until it was sold in 2009 for $800 million to the U.S. company NCR. Solomon, 37, has a degree in food engineering from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and a former Ernst & Young consultant.

The two first met when Solomon was considering how to develop the technology that would eventually become Tabit. Shaked was retired but getting itchy to do something and had started acting as a mentor to young entrepreneurs like Solomon.

“He caught me right at a crisis moment, after five years as a pensioner. I said to myself, ‘Maybe I need to be doing something,’” Shaked recalled in an interview with TheMarker.

Solomon’s concept was built around the restaurant’s cash register, but Shaked said cash register technology wasn’t up to the multitasking Solomon had in mind. Instead, they focused on tablets.

“I said to Nadav that we have a business opportunity based on two things,” said Shaked. “The first is that until today no one has made a completely mobile system for the restaurant world – they’re all based on desktops. We could really improve restaurant efficiency with the right system.”

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The second thing was what Shaked called “where’s the money.” What he meant is that high-tech companies that do provide services to restaurants, such as Wolt (deliveries) and Click-a-Table (reservations), collect steep fees from restaurateurs and provide only some of the services they need.

Solomon compares Tabit to an army command and control system that provides the officer the big picture of what’s happening and who’s doing it. “I was the lieutenant commander in the navy responsible for the command and control systems,” he recalled. “With my old buddies from the army, the easy way to explain what Tabit does is to call it the C2 of restaurants – they understand immediately.”

The advantages for restaurants using Tabit isn’t just a smoother and more efficient process for taking, preparing and billing orders, but the possibility to boost turnover from 8% to 15%, according to company figures. It also helps them cut costs: A restaurant that employed a waitstaff of 10 can find itself needing just eight.

“Think about a restaurant today. The waiter writes down the order and afterward has to reenter it on a computer. Often there’s a line to get to the computer, so he goes to the kitchen with the paper order – it’s a lot of manual work,” said Solomon.

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“Later the waiter takes the customer’s credit card and again has to go back and forth to the cash register, and again there would be a line of waiters there. With Tabit, each waiter has a register in his hand all the time.”

Tabit has raised about $15 million since it was founded, much of it from Shaked himself and but also from the Israeli venture capital fund Pitango. It has about 60 employees at its headquarters in Rishon, north of Tel Aviv, and offices in the United States.

Tabit installed its first system at a restaurant in 2015; as of May, it is being used at 400 sites, and adding about 30 sites a month.

The first restaurants to use Tablit were in Israel, but the company counts 100 installations in Dallas, a city Shaked said will give it a taste of the massive American market: “They say that if you do something in Dallas, Washington or Chicago, it represents the mix of restaurants and customers in the United States.”