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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Will Waiters be the Next Dinosaur?

There is a vicious Internet rumor going around that the days of waiters and waitresses are numbered. We could be as extinct as the dinosaur, the dodo bird or Whitney Houston's vocal chords. According to a CNN article, the newest craze in the restaurant world are tablets that allow customers to place their own orders that will be sent directly to the kitchen thus eliminating the need a for a real live human server to talk to you. I assume these tablets do not require tips. According to the article, the tablets also provide games to help pass the time while waiting for your food and they even accept payment. Does this mean that my career is soon over? Twenty restaurants on the West Coast (rumored to be Applebee's) will be implementing these tablets soon. I guess if it takes off, then the tablets will sweep across the country rendering my ass out of job within a few months. But won't customers miss the warm personal interaction that they receive from a human being? This brings up many concerns:
  • Customers cannot ask a tablet for its personal opinion on the special soup of the day. Will a tablet tell you that the creamy spinach soup tastes like ass?
  • When you find a hair in your food, you really want to have a waitress to blame for it.
  • If all orders are taken by the device, who will the cooks bitch at when they fuck up an order?
  • If you go into an Applebee's with your toddler, you expect him to be served a margarita instead of apple juice. Will a tablet do that? I don't think so.
  • What about senior citizens who can't even operate a DVR remote control? How in the hell are they supposed to figure out how to use a tablet to order a cup of extra hot decaf, a water with no ice and a bowl of chicken soup with no salt? And who will bring them their mug of hot water so they can rinse the silverware before they use it?
  • Will dirty old men still feel the need to grab the ass of the tablet whenever it bends over to pick up something off the floor?
  • If there are no waiters, who will be responsible for wiping down these dirty sticky tablets at the end of the day?
  • How are tablets going to wear skid-resistant shoes from Payless?
  • Who will drunk older women flirt with if all they have is a battery-operated device that can service all their needs? Oh, wait. Forget that one.
  • What will happen when the tablets break down? And you know they will break down. Any restaurant turns into a cluster fuck when the computers go down for even a second, so what will customers do in this dire situation?
  • If there are no waiters, who will managers suppress?
  • How will a tablet take an undercooked burger back to the kitchen even though the customer asked for it medium rare and then ask the cooks to please burn the fuck out of the patty until it resembles a goddamn hockey puck?
These are things that must be kept in mind before we turn our restaurants over to the world of technology. Servers have an important role in restaurants that maybe some big corporations are forgetting. Customers like the feeling of being taken care of and a electronic tablet will simply not serve that need. We servers are there to treat our guests with respect and to make sure their dining experience is a good one. Our customers deserve the attention that only a human being can give them. A tablet will only offer a cold and impersonal experience to diners. For me personally, if a customer is going to have cold impersonal meal dealing with a machine that doesn't give a shit about them or what they order, I want to be that machine that provides them with that experience. Call me old-fashioned, but I care.

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18 comments:

Kitten with a Whisk said...

The second I read the post title I knew what this is about. There is a new trndy place here that is using this approach. I haven't been there yet, but I want to check it out and see how it flows.

There is not replacement for a bitchy waiter btw ;)

The Candid Corker said...

That silverware won't roll itself! :)

Anonymous said...

who will give you your dessert specials like Flatooey? And scene.

Stephanie said...

Weird....I can't see how that would catch on.

Mark W said...

There's a place in Utah (I can't remember the name) where they serve fancy burgers. There's a phone at the table, and when you're ready to order, you pick up the phone and tell them what you want. Only after you do that will someone come to your table to get you something to drink, and then they bring you your food and check back on you.

I'd imagine that even if tablet ordering takes over, we'll still have servers. What I think we'll lose is runners. The servers will end up running their own food, standing at the table, waiting to make sure the order is correct since there was no way to confirm it before the order.

And a tablet is going to have a really hard time carrying a pitcher of water to the table for refills...

The Empress said...

How impersonal. Such a shame that anyone came up with the idea of replacing waiters with computer gadgets. I'd be about as willing to use that type of so-called service as I would those self-check stands at the grocery store. People NOT electronic devices need jobs.

Jen said...

Please! Anyone over the certain age can't figure out how to text, let alone figure out how to order from a tablet! It's like when you phone a company and can't talk to an actual person . . . annoying!!

Heather said...

They will never be able to entire eliminate servers. Guests will always want a real person to yell at - think how frustrating it is to only get to yell at a recording when you call a company to complain?
All you can do is scream "OP-ER-ATOR!" at the damn thing until you get a real person.

However, I do think they're nifty in situations like fast food or fast-casual for people to do their own ordering, imagine how much easier that would be at a drive thru?
And I think it's cool as an interactive menu - forget the restaurant in Chicago - but they're using the iPad as an interactive wine cellar for guest to select their wine. They can click the bottle, see it, read reviews from the internet and the seller's description. I imagine that's much more helpful than some of the inexperienced servers I work with saying "uh, yeah, it's...red?" for a Chardonnay (yes, it's been done). Saves us all from Flatooey some day too hopefully =)

Anonymous said...

For anybody like myself who works in the computer filed and have to constanly fix those broken programs, knows how annyoin and bad idea this is. I personaly do not want to look at a computer when i'm trying to relax and have a nice meal

Phoenix said...

Who will they be able to tell that they want their steak cooked in between medium and medium well? Who will they tell that they don't want "that yellow sauce or whatever it is?" Who will they tell that they want every single ingredient in their salad served on the side in separate containers? This will never work in America, we like to feel special and unique and tablets will not do it ;)

Noelle said...

this might work just fine in a extremely casual restaurant. Still need bodies to deliver food, set up the table, toss the Ceasar, flame the banana's and uncork the wine.
Who is going to Reboot and charge the tablet.
There is a place for more technology
tablets will help with the reservation and seating software. It can help a server be better and more efficient but unless the tray and the jack have grown there own legs.
No one is going to replace the server because WAY to many us want to be waited on and over tip cause we can.

Anonymous said...

Many (many) years ago in Albuquerque there was a cajun restaurant where there were only cooks. You put in your order, poured your own drinks, got your own silverware, picked up your order, bussed your tables. When it came time to pay you went to a cash box and did it yourself. If you used a credit card you ran it through the imprinter yourself (yes, imprinter - like I said it was many years ago).

It didn't last very long, once everyone got over the novelty. But then, it was cajun food in New Mexico so that could have been the problem.

TwisterB said...

I would expect big chains to adopt this since it would inflate profits. There would have to be some people on the floor to deal with concerns, much like self-checkouts at the grocery store.

However I never eat at big chain restaurants, be they McDonalds or Swiss Chalet or Denny's because the food is all full of crap that will kill you quick.

On the positive side, smaller restaurants and higher class restaurants will retain servers, meaning smaller restaurants will have smaller profit margins, but hopefully more people will go to them (for the service)

Amanda said...

I would seriously walk out of a place if they handed me a tablet to order from. I mean, first we have to ring up and bag our own groceries because everything is going to this stupid self-checkout thing (which is horrible and a major waste of time) and this! If technology and computers actually do take over the world then it is because we let it happen. Who's to blame for the drop in unemployment? We are! Not only are jobs being replaced in factories but now people can't even get work as cashiers or waiters. Grrr....

Jenny said...

LMAO. I'm trying to imagine my poor grandfather (who can barely send an email or answer a cell phone) trying to use one of those things. He would never go out to eat again. I can hear him complaining about it already.

EN said...

Most people running Self Checkouts claim they actually increase their workload rather than reduce it. It may reduce the headcount of staff by 1 for every 4 self checkouts but not much more than that.

Whilst I wouldn't mind if I had this option available in a restaurant (and honestly I would prefer it more in a sports bar type establishment instead of a sit down restaurant) I definitely want the waiter available as well.

leia said...

i HIGHLY doubt it. most people prefer talking to a person instead of a machine lol

***ladyvader99.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I have used one of those tablets at california pizza kitchen. They are AMAZING. Sometimes when your in a hurry and your waiter doesn't get it, it is nice to be able to pay without having to ask for the check. Or order without having to wait for waiter to come back to you when he has a moment. We still needed a waiter though, to refill drinks, bring us the food we ordered, and set the tables and what have you.
I actually really liked using them.