UnderCover Waitress: Pink Slips are Coming...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pink Slips are Coming...


Thanks to Sarah Kessler for reporting on a new technology that may (?) have a massive impact on the restaurant industry. It seems we are replaceable.

E la Carte is selling touchscreen tablets that go with a table. Instead of a waiter or waitress approaching to tell the specials and take the order, customers browse the menu via the tablet and place their order at their own convenience. Customers can go back and order more whenever they wish, so this may turn into a money-maker for restaurant owners.

The tablet also serves as a form of entertainment. Diners can play games on the device while they wait. (So they can ignore each other with the tablet instead of texting.)

To make the food service workers even more obsolete, customers can pay using the tablet then leave at their leisure.

Of course, somebody needs to walk the food, refill the water, and bus the table. So far, the tablet does not have legs. So, am wondering if customers really want to tip 20 percent for a little footwork. And if they don't, will owners and managers share the increased profits with the front of house staff in the form of a higher hourly wage?

Am reminded of Michael Scott from "The Office" insisting that Dunder Mifflin Paper Company will thrive in the face of competition from Staples and Office Supply. He believes that his more expensive paper will continue to sell because of the "excellent service" his company offers, for a price. How much do restaurant customers want the smiling banter and human contact that a full-service waitress or waiter provides? Would they rather forego the chit-chat and just play "B'loons" while they wait for their food?

So much remains to be seen.

Your next waiter or waitress may be a tablet.


  1. I doubt this will ever catch on for a majority of America. People go out because they want to be waited on. Sure, you can argue that all people REALLY want is food without the hassle of going to the store, cooking it, and cleaning up after themselves. And you'd be right. But you have to factor in the service aspect. Who's going to get refills for the table? Who's going to prebus the tables so the customers aren't sitting in flith? How to customers place increasingly complicated and ridiculous orders? There is no substitute for a person in those cases; not everything can be automated. Those jobs are things a SERVER does, not a tablet.

  2. My favorite thing you said: "How do customers place increasingly complicated and ridiculous orders?" hehehe But you left out, "who to bitch to and blame?"

    Heard Applebee's will be trying them. You are probably right. Customers will at first enjoy the novelty, then defeat the purpose of the tablets by summoning actual people-staff for things the tablet can't do.


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