Ordering Your Meal Via A Computers: A Gimmick Or Useful?

from the may-depend-on-your-mood dept

I recently flew on Richard Branson’s new Virgin America airline, and one of the nice features was the fact that you could order food or drinks via the touchscreen on the back of the seat in front of you. It made the process a lot more efficient. Apparently, a number of restaurants are starting to feel the same way, as these electronic menus are becoming more popular in restaurants. What’s interesting, though, is that people seem to have widely divergent views on the things. Some people love them, and find them more useful, while others think they’re an annoying gimmick. The restaurants have found that people tend to spend more, and restaurants probably save even more money on needing a smaller wait staff. The article notes some other innovations that are being tested, including the idea of allowing people to order in a restaurant using their own laptops or mobile phones connected to the restaurant WiFi network (which may run into some problems concerning an Apple patent on the concept). Of course, those restaurants still need waiters to deliver the food — unless they follow the path of the restaurant we described last summer that had built a somewhat complex set of metal rails.

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Comments on “Ordering Your Meal Via A Computers: A Gimmick Or Useful?”

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inc says:

While I haven’t ordered in a restaurant this way, I have ordered pizza online. It just makes it easier to see everything you are going to get and make sure you don’t forget something without feeling like you are wasting the other guys time(if you don’t have a menu). I think if restaurants utilize both friendly customer service and a fast way for your order to get straight into the kitchen without taking detours like a smoke break would get people served better. The downside is if restaurants use these systems incorrectly and make patrons feel rushed cattle on an assembly line then you’d see problems.

chris says:

Could help with processing orders as well

although we dont yet have robots cooking our food, the computers could perform as accurate an estimate if not better for queuing when to cook which foods so that orders are all ready and hot for the table at the same time. Traditionally this burden falls on the chef and the heatlamps, but by processing all orders through a computer and programming in cook times, chefs could have a handy tool for processing orders.

As an aside the computers could also be set up to give estimates for how long it will take to get an order for the table, and it would be really nice if there was a nice little video feed showing your food being cooked. That way I would know that nobody was spitting in my burger after I bothered the cook with a particularly complex or irritating order.

I personally love the idea of computers involved in everything, nobody in star trek ever complained about the devices that just generated their food for them. I go to a restaurant for the flesh and blood interactions with my friends not the wait staff.

SilverWolf (user link) says:


This won’t save restaurants much money in the long run because waiters and waitresses don’t get paid hardly anything anyway (most of their money comes from tips)

And it makes the entire process much less personal.

I like ordering pizza online as much as the next guy, and maybe ordering from a computer screen at a restaurant wouldn’t be bad, but I want a real live person to being my food.

GSArnold says:

Sheetz gas stations do this....

Sheetz gas stations do this under the brand name M*T*O (Made To Order)to deliver fully custom orders for breakfast, pretzels, hot dogs, burgers, salads, subs, etc. 24/7/365.

The nice part is that if you really want a salami and bacon with double mayo, guacamole and pineapple, you don’t have to explain it to ANYONE. They just make it, pretty much how you want it. Also, there’s no confusion about upgrade and side order prices since they are confirmed onscreen before you order. Once you put your order in, you pay at the register up front, THEN they give you the food.

Verdict: I don’t want it everywhere, but for situations like this, it is quite nice. Can produce a LOT of customized orders quickly and accurately.

Wolferz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That is the worst part. People no longer sit at the table with their family and chat. They huddle around the boob tube and watch their shows in silence instead. Now I’m gonna have to reach across the table and smack the crap out of my friends to get them to stop chatting with some one who DIDN’T go out to eat with them? I might get sued by a few restaurants after I rip the damn thing off the wall and throw at a the people who, when I came to the restaurant, I liked.

America needs stop looking for new ways to stay connected… and start looking for ways to connect.

If this thing becomes popular I am gonna have to go hunt down whoever invented this thing and make him spin a wheel to decide which way he will die… all 7 choices taken straight form the movie Se7en.

Wolferz (profile) says:

uhm... no.

“and restaurants probably save even more money on needing a smaller wait staff.”

So they are looking to turn their restaurants into an experience I can get at home… for much less money… in much less time… and without any of the problems associated with going to out to eat…

First off: a smaller staff, even with these machines, is a bad idea. Bringing food to the table is only 1 out of about 5 visits that will be made to that table when the people sitting there are in a hurry. Those that are sitting there shooting the breeze (parties and the like) will likely be there long enough for you to check on them 10 or more times (over 2-3 hours). Yes the staff could be summoned as needed… but my guess is that would result in the need for a much larger staff.

In the end, there is nothing a restaurant chef can cook that I can’t with my modest electric range and my modest collection of skillets, pans, pots, knives, and other, more specific, cookware. Further more, in many cases I can do it better. I can watch TV or play video games while I do it. I can shoot the breeze with a gaggle of friends as well. What I can’t do is sit on my ass while I’m waited on hand and foot. That is what restaurants are for. People go to restaurants to slow down. They want to be pampered a bit. When restaurants stop being about waiting on clients and becomes about customers waiting on themselves restaurants become redundant… useless… worse than useless.

Yes I still wouldn’t have to cook my own meal… but that takes 10 minutes with some of the stuff you can find in the grocery store now days. Check out the Bertolli pasta meals next time you’re there. Toss it in a tall pan, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice… then eat. Every bit as good as what you can get at most Italian restaurants in the US short of say… 4 stars.

Make checking out faster. Make reservations easier. Make knowing when your table is ready more comfortable. Make knowing when the customers food is ready more efficient. Make carpet and tables that detect spilled drinks. Make cameras that can tell when some one has finished their food and might be ready for desert. Make glasses that notify the staff when it is less than half full. All these things technology can do. It can not, however, replace a semi-skilled waiter or waitress… not even for placing an order.

Gunnar says:

Re: uhm... no.

“Yes I still wouldn’t have to cook my own meal… but that takes 10 minutes with some of the stuff you can find in the grocery store now days. Check out the Bertolli pasta meals next time you’re there. Toss it in a tall pan, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice… then eat. Every bit as good as what you can get at most Italian restaurants in the US short of say… 4 stars.”

Ha… no.

Not unless you consider Olive Garden a 4 star restaurant.

“Bringing food to the table is only 1 out of about 5 visits that will be made to that table when the people sitting there are in a hurry.”

Actually, it’s two to three, lest you forget drinks, desserts and appetizers. Not that the waiter always delivers the food.

There’s nothing that bother’s my family more than when, in conversation, a waiter comes over and makes the “is everything alright” rounds.

Wolferz (profile) says:

Re: Re: uhm... no.

Son, I’m not even sure you know what an Italian restaurant looks like if you think Olive Garden qualifies. But no, the pasta at Olive Garden isn’t better then Bertolli and no it’s not a 4 star restaurant.

“Actually, it’s two to three, lest you forget drinks, desserts and appetizers. Not that the waiter always delivers the food.”

Uhm… so… once to take the order, once to give the bill, and once to pick the money up? Just to make sure we are on the same page here: I don’t consider Waffle House a restaurant.

Once to see what drinks we want, maybe even make a suggestion regarding the current specials. Second time to see if we are ready to order, and if so, place that order. Third time likely to bring the food, but that isn’t always done by the waiter themselves. Third/Fourth time to check on the clients and make sure their glasses are filled and, if they didn’t deliver the food themselves, to make sure everything is as ordered. Fourth/Fifth time to check glasses again and get an idea how close the clients are to being done (so as to know when to check back for the final visit). Fifth/Sixth time to see who wants desert, if they are ready for the bill, and refill glasses one more time.

That is a minimum. That assumes I am there for an hour tops.

Alimas says:

Re: Re: Re: uhm... no.

When I go out to eat, the waitress better be checking my table once every 10 minutes, even if just to pass by and glance to make sure nothing needs changing. I drink a lot and my beverage (typically lemonade or water) gets empty and needs replacement fast or it ruins my meal for me. Its an important part of my tipping functions. Thats just as a simple example. There are lots of reasons for the waitstaff to stop by frequently.
In fact, the higher class the restaurant, the more dabs they do keep on you just to be sure your as comfortable as possible.

ed (profile) says:

Re: uhm... no.

You still don’t have to make any effort to.. make sure you have the right food at home to cook, don’t have to try to figure out what everyone will eat that night, don’t have to spend any effort at making food, don’t have to clean up anything, etc etc etc.

A touchscreen doesn’t change a f’ing restaurant experience. You go to eat for 30 mins – 1 hr. Is the waiter waiting on you hand and foot every second while you are there? No. Couldn’t you refill your drink faster at home? I mean what exactly are you talking about. People go to restaurants cause they are lazy and don’t want to deal with cooking at home. That’s it. Maybe you really do wish you were royalty and you enjoy someone who doesn’t want to be there, is getting paid peanuts, and has been on their feet all day dealing with other self important people like you; waiting on you hand and foot, but not everyone cares about that.

If anything restaurants are more and more obsolete and just a social phenomenon going by what you are saying; which I would actually agree with.

Alimas says:

Re: Re: uhm... no.

Wow, time to step off your narrow self-righteous column.

Most people and myself, go out to eat to interact. You go with friends or your significant other in order to increase the amount of time you have to socialize. I’ve been in restaurants for more than three hours at a time with a group of friends. Laughing, joking talking amongst ourselves and with the those poor, slave laboring wait staff.

I don’t know what you do in a restaurant, but I enjoy myself socially. The food is a secondary bonus, particularly if its good food. Its more of just an excuse to go out and have a good time with friends.

Maybe if you didn’t have such a horrible attitude, the wait staff wouldn’t all look like they were suffering so hard when they were around your table.

Also, its pretty typical for wait staff, to do really well an hour at a restaurant due to tips. Its hard work, no doubt. Any job requiring customer service can be rough. Lot of people are asses. Doesn’t mean you need to be.

pleg says:

But what about the other side?

Who are the chefs going to sleep around with? There’s always internet pr0n I suppose.
Though I suppose some fast food joints could automate the cooking as well….

But seriously, in a lot of places, waiting staff is a good starting point for some who needs some money. Places like McDonald’s, though given varying amount of carp, is apparently once of the best places to train as a manager. A guy I went to school with got on the managerial program at McDs, and from what I hear, he’s doing quite well. (He’s not at McDs anymore, btw)

Too much these days, people are looking for people with experience, and are generally unwilling to hire a n00b. Too much hiring too far up the career chain tends to make a company top heavy. Lots of highly skilled staff doing boring and uninteresting work. But this is where outsourcing can come in, another option I’m never too happy about. Don’t get me wrong, in some cases it is a good option. I just think companies should try to look at what could be done in country, that they could use to bring someone up through the ranks.
I consider myself quite lucky where I work, as I can interact with different teams that work on different operating systems and in a lot of cases, actually get to do some interesting work on them as well. Hell, I’m learning about TANDEM. The team I’m in is being used to bring in new people, train them in the ways of the company, and start exposing them to the systems using low level administration tasks.

The person intaction argument is a good point also.

Kevin says:

Call me crazy...

But I prefer actually interacting with a waitress to ordering via touchscreen. Don’t get me wrong, I order pizza delivery via my PC all the time, but if I go to a restaurant I want to interact with a real person. The conversation (and sometimes flirting) with the waitress is half the fun. Besides, she’s guaranteed to flirt back because she wants a big tip.

Now if I order by touch screen and someone drump the food off at my table, where’s the fun in that? If they forgot to bring a part of the order out, do I have to use a computer to ask for that too? And who are they going to get to wait on people like that? You just know that tips are going to be lower because the server “doesn’t have to do as much.”

ike says:

These computers would be particularly attractive to the clients of restaurants that allow gaming or lounging, such as bubble tea parlours. These places usually specialise in drinks and finger food, things that can easily be ordered by computer. In some of these place, you already order by number. I’ve forgone ordering food in the past in order to avoid interrupting the game I was playing at the time to flag down a waiter. Typing a number into a computer would lessen the interruption to the acceptable.

Rose M. Welch says:

This is new because...?

A&W’s used ordering by radio at your table for ages. And if I can send my order to Domino’s via the Internet, I don’t have to spend five years on hold just waiting to ask if I’m calling the right damn store to deliver to my area. This is just like automated telephone systems: Good if used for good, but crappy if used crappily.

Le Blue Dude says:

Restarunts as

Well, the real question is: Is visiting the restarunt selling you goods (food) or a service (Polite and courtious waiters etc.)?

Fast food restaurants certainly fit the A profile. But sit down restaurants will likely stick with waiters, except for a few techy ones.

Anyway, I can cook up to 4 starish level… The difference is that a 4 star chef is cooking for several hundred, and I’m cooking for up to five. And $20-30 to feed five people is pretty cheap, and I got that price using organic food, too. If I want food, I eat at home. If I want service I go to restaurant.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve been wanting this for years.

It would be so nice to press a button to order a drink refill, or if you decide you want desert simply press a few buttons to order it.

And last, but not least, how many times have you been stuck at a table waiting for your check? It would be great functionality to be able to print the check at the table, or even pay at the table with a credit card.

Javarod (profile) says:

Hmmm, the only things good I can see here is that it makes it easier for a restaurant to offer a much broader menu, a paper menu means that even if they have the ingredients to make other less popular items, the finite space in the menu limits them to popular items and the occasional experiment, otherwise the menu becomes too formidable for customers. Also this could allow a much more interesting presentation of the food, no longer would the images be static. Lastly, this would allow longer more complete descriptions of the items including nutritional information.

While this wouldn’t reduce staffing, it might make it more efficient, now they could concentrate on the guest experience and presentation, I can name one restaurant (and have in my LJ) that could use to learn that.

Stephanie says:

I do prefer to order food online as it is a convenient and easier way of ordering food when you don’t have enough time to go out for food. I use to order food by making use of the website http://www.merosys.com . The site is very useful as it provides all the details about the food offered by the subscribed restaurants. You can start placing your orders within a few hours of signing up.

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