The next digital casualty: waiters?

Some restaurants are experimenting with at-table electronic service

The National Restaurant Association has released its 2012 industry forecast, which is jam-packed with tons of interesting facts for anyone interested in the business of food. While there’s a wealth of data on topics such as economic impact and employment, the tastiest morsels–in my books, anyway–have to do with technology.

You have to be an association member, or a journalist, to get the full report, but fortunately Business News Daily has some of the more pertinent info. The facts that caught my eye were:

Nearly 4 in 10 consumers say they’d be likely to use an electronic ordering system and menus on tablet computers at full-service restaurants. About half said they would use at-table electronic payment options and a restaurant’s smartphone app to view menus and make reservations. (My emphasis added)

That “at-table” part is important for anyone who has been to a restaurant and had their order screwed up and/or waited an interminable time to get their waiter’s attention either to get a drink refill or the bill. That is to say, it’s important to all of us.

Are we, as the report suggests, headed for a future without waiters? Some restauranteurs believe so and are experimenting with such ideas. Check out this restaurant in Germany, which uses a touch-screen ordering system and roller-coaster-like tracks to deliver food to customers:

As the video report pointed out, the restaurant still has human cooks. But such people, too, are an endangered species as robot cooks are on the march around the world.

I’ve long advocated replacing restaurant staff with robots and automation–one side bonus is eliminating nose gold on your pizza–so bring it on!

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