One bad thing that's about to happen to your favorite waitress
But it's great news for her boss!
If you're a career server or you depend on turning tables and earning tips to pay your way through college, I've got bad news for you. You're about to be replaced by a touchscreen. The devices have been tested at a number of restaurants across the country and so far, they're a hit.
Hello, I'm a touchscreen and I'll be your server today.
But what about the human element? Glad you asked.
The human element is expensive. Labor is a major expense for any restaurant, and servers take time to train and still make mistakes. They also have a habit of taking shortcuts with tables, sometimes skipping drink recommendations, making only superficial dessert recommendations, and generally slacking on the upsell. Electronic devices don't cut corners like that. This isn't to say servers are bad employees, but they are human and many take those shortcuts to keep pace with their guests and quickly turn their tables.
The new touchscreen pads are already being tested on tables at a number of Chili's, Applebee's, and Chevys Fresh Mex restaurants across the country. Customers can place their order on the pad when they're ready. In addition to placing their order, they can make special requests that won't frazzle waitstaff or be forgotten. The devices diligently offer beverages, sides, and desserts increasing the "add-on sales" for each table.
After the meal, a diner doesn't need to wait to pay or bother waiting in line for the cashier. Instead, the pads offer convenient payment options right on the screen. It also turns the table that much faster.
In the meantime, the pads entertain kids and adults who testers have found will pay a small fee to play games on them while their order is prepared. That's means more money for the establishment.
The screens can also serve ads to diners while they eat and suggest desserts or a fresh round of drinks at a precisely timed moment, which enhances revenues for the store.
Of course, the big savings comes in labor. Instead of one server working a few tables or so, now that same person can concentrate on running food, refilling drinks, and bussing tables. They can also cover larger sections since their original workload has decreased. In all actuality, it should make serving less stressful, yet also less profitable. It will likely become even more hectic although some of the detail work, such as the order taking, will be eliminated.
Despite the larger sections, the fewer jobs and hours for servers means less people will find work in the front of the house. Also, diners who place their own orders are likely to tip less - or not at all. This could become a serious issue in those places where servers are paid below minimum wage and rely on tips to earn a living.
Ask any server who works a buffet today and you'll understand what's coming for traditional waitstaff in terms of work and tips.
What restaurant can resist the change? The industry is already very competitive and no establishment can permit their direct competitors to enjoy such a profitable and potentially popular advantage.
Ultimately, (with a sigh) this is a sign of the times. More and more human interaction is occurring via the virtual realm rather than in person. One cannot help but wonder what we are losing by the replacing genuine personal interaction in our world with the coldly timed visuals from a computer program scientifically designed to make us buy more food and beverage on impulse.
There will be holdouts. Certainly, nobody associates touch screen ordering with white tablecloth dining, but even that bastion of human interaction will eventually fall. And there will always be the old-school diners who prefer a waiter to take their order rather than trust a touchscreen, but they will convert with time. Eventually every diner will have a touchscreen and every server will be demoted to the rank of an automaton that interacts only occasionally with the guests. In many ways, it is a shame.
C'est la vie.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Servers, tablets, waiter, waitress, waitstaff, restaurant, touchscreen, dining, unemployment, Chili's, Applebee's, Chevys, Ziosk, Presto, eTab
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