Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Waiterless Restaurant

A synergetic conglomeration of restaurant gimmicks. Or, an Automat for the 21st century.
  (+7, -1)
(+7, -1)
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Element #1: In certain 50's-style diners in the USA and possibly elsewhere, at each table there is a miniature "jukebox". This device isn't actually a jukebox itself, but instead has a booklet of songs inside of it and a keypad on the bottom. You flip throught the self-contained book of songs, find one you like, and read the identifying code listed next do it. Then you drop a quarter into the machine, punch in the code, and the song you slected begins playing on the real, full-size jukebox sitting int he corner of the room, without you needing to get up from your seat.

Element #2: Sushi boats. The archetypical sushi bar has a system of little floating boats that circle the area of the counter between where the chefs are preparing the sushi and where the patrons are sitting. When a person order sushi the chef prepares it and then places it ont he boat, which then floats around to where the person is sitting, where it is picked up and consumed.

Element #3: Dim Sum. In this asian-originated style of dining, food is served in small portions on individually patterned dishes. Instead of ordering a specific meal, you simply take whatever dishes you want, and at the end of the meal the cashier adds up the value of all the food you took based on the unique dishes you have left over at your table and gives you your bill.

The synergetic conglomeration: Inside the restaurant, there is no staff to be seen. The restaurant has a number of booths/tables around the outside. Each booth is serviced by a mini-jukebox-like device and a sushi-boat channel. The mini-jukebox, instead of listing songs, lists food. If you see somthing you like, you swipe your credit card to start a tab for the evening, and punch in the appropriate code (to split the cost between multiple people, just swipe multiple cards and then press an extra button with each order, and the system will add the cost of each dish to whichever tab you choose). Within a few minutes, the food or drinks you ordered come floating around on the sushi boats (which come from, and return to, a mysterious black hole in the wall). All of the food is served on plates with bar codes, which are scanned automatically when you take them from the boats onto your table, automatically adding to your running tab (think the mechanism used in supermarket checkout lines). When you are done, just press the "finished" button, which closes your tab and deducts the cost of the meal from your account.

Why do it: It's the perfect hassle-free dining exerience. When you come to the restaurant, you sit down wherever and whenever you want. You can order exactly as much or as little food as you like, and you can get your food the moment you want it--no sooner, no later. If you want more food, just punch up another plate and it's delivered straight to your table. Billing is fair and fast--you never pay for a side dish you didn't want, and there's no fumbling with the bill after the meal is over--just punch a button and walk out. After you leave, the table (which was really a conveyor belt all along) carries the dishes back to be washed and presents a clean surface for the next patrons.

(naturally this will all be staffed by real human beings behind the scenes--but since no one is required to take orders or bring food to the tables, the savings from fewer staff will make the restaurant at least economically feasible if not cheaper than a normal restaurant)

5th Earth, Dec 10 2004

(?) The Original Waiterless Restaurant http://www.smithson...ct_aug01.php?page=1
Horn & Hardart pioneered this concept. [jurist, Dec 10 2004, last modified Nov 20 2006]


       I miss the Horn & Hardart Automat Cafeterias of my youth, which were billed as the original "Waiterless Restaurants". This idea is a stylish update of that restaurant concept, although it still suffers from a few of the same operational problems that eventually led to the demise of the world's largest restaurant chain.(Actually, as the [link] shows, Horn & Hardart didn't die, it just re-invented itself.)
jurist, Dec 10 2004

       Did they have electricity then or were the automatsd strictly mechanical?
bristolz, Dec 10 2004

       We ate by gaslight back in those days. I think most of the coin acceptors H & H used were still purely mechanical at that time (mid-1950's), which is one reason I liked [5th Earth]'s introduction of the swipe card. My memory could be faulty here because electromechanical coin changers were widely used by vendors in the early 1960's, and the first bill acceptors slightly later.
jurist, Dec 10 2004

       This is more of an eatery than a restaurant.
harderthanjesus, Dec 10 2004

       Agreed this is similar to an automat, but as mentioned the lack of fiddly change makes it easier to use. Also note that at an automat you have to get up, get your food, and bring it back to your table, which can be inconvinient (and does anybody know how automats served drinks?). Also, by hiding how much money you are spending from obvious view (the prices are all listed, but you're not actually physically losing money from your pocket), people may be encouraged to spend more.   

       As for getting a meal delivered, there are several drawback. First of all, there's the quanity issue--The food will be delivered in relatively large amounts, so you'll probably get (and pay for) more than you want. On the other hand, if you don't get enough, you have to call out again and wait another 30 minutes or more for the delivery person to get there. Most deliveries also require payment in cash, which is awkward for a number of reasons.   

       More of an eatery than a restaurant? Well, okay. But bear in mind it is 1: more sanitary than a traditional buffet-style eatery--no food sitting out for hours exposed to every customer's germs. 2: Faster and more convinient--food gets delivered right to your table, with no waiting lines, and the bill is handled in moments. 3: Really cool for geeky guys like me.
5th Earth, Dec 11 2004

       I go to volunteer meetings about food issues in our community for the past six months that are attended mostly by women. The direction of the meetings is usually side-tracked by the first motherhood item on the agenda. Men seem to be more remote about food, de-personalizing it, hiding it, hoarding it. The idea of a miniature ringroad railway track going through all the kitchens of the houses of a neighborhood block and sharing all the food with those that need it/make it/buy it/consume it appeals to me more. Here comes the neighbor's famous hot apple pie choo-chooing into the kitchen.
mensmaximus, Dec 11 2004

       I think I'll sit upstream. More "complimentary" appetizers that way.
Cuit_au_Four, Dec 11 2004

       [Cuit_au_Four], you forget (or didn't read carefully)--a dish isn't charged until the item passes from the boats onto your table, and then it is charged to the tab at that table. Meaning if you take someone else's order, YOU get charged for it, and they don't.   

       Note also that if an item comes around, and for some reason you don't want it, just leave it on the boats and it will be automatically returned without being charged, and with no hassle.   

       Still, perhaps a direct line from the kitchen to each table instead of a continuous track to all tables would be a good idea. It would prevent mixups when somebody takes something they didn't order, and then the real orderer wonders where their food is.   

       Another addition: Certain very generic items (glasses of water, condiments, basic side dishes) would be circulated continuously, so they are available even without being specifically ordered. Naturally the cheaper items like water and so forth would be free.
5th Earth, Dec 11 2004

       Heh, well that's assuming you take the plate. But I don't think anyone would have the audacity or the slight of hand to pull a stunt like that off.   

       I like your original idea of a single canal, however; instead of multiple canals, you could just put a number on the boat that corresponds with the table number. That should prevent mix ups.
Cuit_au_Four, Dec 11 2004

       I like this idea. There are so many things that could be done with this concept. [+]
Pericles, Dec 11 2004

       This is kinda cool. I was in New York city when the last Automat closed and I'm sorry I never visited one. Anyway, one possible problem I see is that people may balk at getting "nickeled and dimed" for their meals. A restaurant near here used to have a variety of food stations with POS terminals. When the customer wanted something else, they'd go swipe their restaurant-issued card and get some food (I believe bread, drinks and such came with the meal). My perception was that most people felt like they paid too much.
Predictor, Jan 07 2005

       Blue C Sushi in Seattle goes a step or two toward baking this. It's conveyer-belt sushi without waiters. There is a blue button you press if you ever need anything special, but other than drink orders and bringing your check you never interact with anyone except the people you came with. This allows them to get away with apparently one waiter, and allows you to not feel compelled to tip.
Worldgineer, Jan 07 2005

       McDonald's experimented with robots already.
travbm, Oct 29 2015


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