Soon you’ll be able to IM your waiter for a beer and a dozen wings at your favorite sports bar

It’s the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball, but you can’t flag down your waiter among the crowds of screaming University of Texas fans (yes, one day Texas will return to the Final Four) to order another pitcher of beer. Why not send him an instant message over the bar’s Wi-Fi network? Why not order another plate of nachos while you’re at it, and then close out your tab?

If your bar happens to be a Buffalo Wild Wings, then all of those things are now or will soon be entirely possible from the Samsung tablet at your elbow. Like many of the big of chain casual dining restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings is embracing the idea of the slate on the tabletop; not just as a means of offering up digital menus and ordering options, but also as an entertainment device.

Buzztime Tablet

But the difference between Buffalo Wild Wings and Chili’s or Applebee’s is that instead of buying a whole new tablet system like E la Carte’s restaurant platform, it’s tapping into a network it has had in place for your years: electronic trivia gaming.

Buzztime’s Playmaker tablets already power BWW’s weekly nationwide bar trivia contests and let patrons compete against one another in other casual games. But with a system called Beond, Buzztime is taking advantage of the tablet platform’s networking capabilities to create a direct link between the staff and customers.

As Beond rolls out to 500 BWW locations in 2014, it will not only support ordering and bill payment capabilities, it will let patrons communicate digitally with the staff. They could request a TV channel change, for instance, or buy songs from the bar’s digital jukebox.

Tablets are never going to replace bartenders or servers. Someone has to make your drinks and infer that when you say you want your burger cooked “medium” your really mean “burnt into charcoal.” But as the big casual dining chains are learning, there’s a lot more to networking in restaurants than putting business cards in a fishbowl.

Feature image from Flickr/mfajardo