For some reason I’m addicted to the show "Bar Rescue."
If you haven’t seen the show, it stars bar expert Jon Taffer, who has been responsible for opening or rejuvenating hundreds of bars around the world.
In each episode a different bar owner calls on Taffer to help turn around his or her failing business. From there, Taffer makes the necessary changes to get the bar back on its feet, which usually includes changing the entire look of the bar and sometimes its name.
In addition, Taffer usually modernizes the bar by giving it new gadgets and devices so it’s easier for the staff to do their jobs.
In a couple of episodes Taffer provided each table with its own tablet, so customers could order directly from where they’re sitting, without having to interact with a waiter or waitress.
And this new way of ordering food is not only popping up in many bars, it’s popping up in restaurants too, so there’s a good chance that ordering food from an actual person may be a thing of the past.
Take, for example, the Presto touch-screen tablet that allows customers to view menus and order items with just a few swipes and presses. Customers can pay for their meals too, without having to wait for a paper check to arrive.
Rajat Suri, the creator of the Presto touch-screen told Bloomberg Businessweek that people want faster service these days and pretty much want to bring the convenience of the Internet into the restaurant experience.
“People have been changed by the Internet and expect faster speeds of service and access to information,” he said. “This technology makes it strictly better to attend a restaurant.”
Another convenience of the Presto and other tablets like it is the fact that customers can view big bold images of their food before ordering it, which paper menus simply can’t provide. Many times people like to see what the menu items are since it helps them make a decision a little faster.
But Suri wasn’t the only person who jumped on the restaurant tablet craze.
Companies like E Menu, TouchBistro, MenuPad, OwnPoint of Sale and Menupad have all created ways for people to interact with waiters and waitresses less.
Many restaurant tablets display menus in multiple languages, so people will be able to view and order things regardless of the language they speak. In addition, many of the tablets come with an app that you can download, so you can stay abreast of future restaurant promotions and deals.
Ziosk is another company that makes restaurant tablets, and its devices allow customers to order food and play games until the food arrives. The cost of each game is usually 99 cents, which gets added to the bill at the end of each meal.
Perhaps some might say that interacting with a server is a big part of the restaurant experience and using a tablet to order and pay for food lessens that experience a little.
However, Charlie Ayers, who owns the restaurant Calafia, in Palo Alto, Calif., says tablets don’t take away from the dining-out experience, they add to it by allowing people to get their food faster, in case they have other places to go.
“It’s the future,” he said in a interview. “People say it’s very inhospitable. But it’s the epitome of hospitality. It empowers the guest to get in and to get out.”
But is that why people really go to restaurants, to quickly get in and out?
Some might say people go to restaurants to slow down a bit and enjoy a new dish, as well as any ambiance an establishment may provide.
Furthermore, others may not like the fact that many servers could lose their jobs, which is a great possibility, similar to the way many store cashiers have been replaced by digital checkout kiosks.
And there could be security issues when customers use restaurant tablets.
Credit card information could be compromised if businesses don’t take the right steps to protect you. And even then your information could still be stolen, because many times as a new gadget is created, a new scheme to steal information from that gadget is created too.
And what about human interaction?
Some people enjoy the server who may be funny or personable. And having a server who can give you their personal opinion about a particular dish can be helpful too.
But according to Suri, restaurant tablets are not only here to stay, consumers will probably see more of them as time passes.
Tablets are “propelling the restaurant industry into the Internet age,” he says.
But Suri also believes that servers won’t be totally replaced. Consumers will just have another way to order and pay for their food.
“We’re not totally replacing human interaction. This doesn’t prevent you from talking to a server. But now you have two options,” he said.