– Olive Garden will put tabletop tablets in all 845 restaurants nationwide starting in May, letting customers order appetizers and drinks from the devices.

Darden Restaurants has been testing the ­tablets at a handful of Central Florida Olive Gardens for over a year, but has now decided to roll out the handheld computer devices at the Italian-style casual dining eateries.

The 7-inch touch screen tablets also will allow customers to pay and split bills from the table, as well as play games and trivia. The Ziosk-brand tablets also have a card reader to allow debit and credit card purchases.

"We've been focused on improving the dining experience at every touch point, and we're excited to give our guests the ability to customize their visit by leveraging the technology of Ziosk's tabletop tablets," said Dave George, Olive Garden president. "This additional resource benefits both our guests and our servers, enabling our team members to make more meaningful connections and provide more personalized service."

The results of tablet testing over the past year have been positive, Olive Garden said. Tips are higher for servers, dining times are faster and guest satisfaction scores have increased as well.

Customers can order drinks, appetizers and desserts from the devices, but servers will continue to handle ordering on entrees. The devices also include a menu and an expanded number of photos of food items.

Several other restaurants have tabletop tablets for guests, including most Chili's locations, as well as some Outback and Applebee's locations. Other restaurants have been testing ­tablets for ordering at the counter.

Olive Garden hopes to have the touch-screen tablets in place at all restaurants worldwide by the end of the year.