Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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I CAN HAZ CROISSANTZ?

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Shoaling Diner

With really serious apologies to [notmarkflynn]
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Not one for the private diner, this...

My favourite dining experiences are the ones where I'm required to interact with my fellow diners. There's something about being thrown into a situation with a bunch of strangers and some really good food which is just the best.

This is just what happens at the Shoaling Diner. First, you have to find the place - or to be more accurate, the places. Grab your mobile phone, text 'food' to the Shoaling Diner's number, and in return you get a GPS location, and directions to get there from wherever the heck you are. When you eventually find it, it's full (as usual) so you hang around until it's gone past, then climb onto the sofa which follows the diner around at a respectful distance. This gives you a chance to observe the Diner in action...

Each 'table' is actually a cute little stainless steel pod on wheels, with nicely moulded seats for a couple of people, and a little engine. The table surface has a couple of hatches in the middle, from which delicious-smelling steam rises.

There is (wait for it) a shoal of these little pods. Programmed with simple flocking algorithms, they scoot sedately round one another, never getting too far away, nor too close. An overarching algorithm gives the whole shoal a gradual motion in one direction. To start with, I reckon one circuit of the park in an hour should be about right.

It's also possible to direct your pod, as long as you don't push it too far from the flock (it gets upset then). This is important because each table only has a small part of the menu stored inside its little heated compartment. If you want a different dish, you have to (a) find out who's got it, and then (b) scoot over there, match speeds, and get them to dollop you out a helping.

"Hey, Excuse me!" The call wakes you from your reverie. A guy in a check shirt has scooted to the back, and is waving a napkin at you.
"Hey! Ya got any more napkins? I think there's some in a box under the sofa."
Sure enough, you grab a handful and wave back. He comes puttering down, and neatly scoops them out of your hand as his table executes a beautifully controlled swerve. As he goes away, he's calling, "Anyone need a napkin? Just got some more!"

To start with, this should be just limited to parks, where it can pootle around the edges providing a different view throughout the meal. But I'm thinking something more ambitious could grow out of it. I'm seeing lazy afternoons spent scooting round the countryside, tables stocked with Pimms and nibbles, or maybe even a week-long Shoaling Diner Santiago da Compostella Pilgrimage Holiday. Holy Tapas, Batman!

moomintroll, Dec 22 2005

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       //With really serious apologies to [notmarkflynn]// Whatever. You do not need to apologise to your apprentice.   

       As for the idea, it looks cool. How fast to the pods move? I don't want to have to be strapped in to my seat.   

       If you book 6 months in advance and pay extra, you should be able to become 'Master Pod', and be able to control everyone's direction and speed. Or something like that.   

       Have a bun... If you can catch it.
dbmag9, Dec 23 2005
  

       Just because it has to be mentioned at some point, I take it that when on public highways, the mobile boundaries of the diner are neatly delineated by flocking road cones?
david_scothern, Dec 23 2005
  

       sounds like a dodgems diner. could food service be added to anyother fairground rides?
rainbow, Dec 24 2005
  
      
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