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Food: Restaurant: Ordering
Automated Restaurant Management System (ARMS)   (+8, -5)  [vote for, against]
It's about time we brought foodservice into the 21st century.

Restaurants right now(with the exception of fast food) are terribly inefficent. My idea would automate the entire process.

You enter the restaurant. The server there would then take you to your table, and register "Smith, Party of 4, Table 3B" on a wrist PDA-like device. Sitting on the table would be a touchscreen console with a plastic film similar to plastic saran wrap over the screen that could be automatically rolled down and replaced after each guest left.

On the console there would be a touchscreen with a credit card swipe device built into the housing. You would follow the prompts on the touchscreen to place your order, including drinks and appetizers. You would then press "Send Order" which would send your order to the kitchen, and would then activate a camera display into the kitchen where you could see your food being made.

After the kitchen staff filled the drinks, they would place it on a server pick-up area and the server's Wrist PDA would add a line of text to a "pending tasks" list telling him/her to pick up the drinks. Later, after the meal was ready, it would display a message to come pick up the food. If you needed service, you would use the computer console to place a service order.

When you were finished, you could order dessert, or press the "Check" button to total up an order. You would then swipe your credit card on the console, and set the tip amount, possibly with an automatic tip calculator where you could set the percent amount. You would then use the stylus to sign your signature. The console would then print a reciept, and you would be on your way. Once you left, a message would be sent to the janitorial staff saying to pick up the dishes and clean the table. The plastic film over the touchscreen would be replaced automatically, and at the front desk, a message would appear, "Table 3B Ready"

Service would be snappy, it would completely eliminate redundant orders, and no waiting for your credit card back after you pay.
-- BinaryCookies, Aug 05 2002

I, for one, judge my visit to a restaurant by the friendliness of the wait staff. I think this one would rate a -10 and I would certainly never come back.

[As noted elsewhere, I dine at restaurants to enjoy my food and relax with friends, not as an exercise in misplaced efficiency.]
-- DrCurry, Aug 05 2002

Very clever. Your automatically ordered croissant will be with you shortly sir.
-- NickTheGreat, Aug 05 2002

Oh, the wonderful mischievous hacking opportunities abound in this idea. 'Modifying' orders, charging to other tables, repeatedly calling for service to a table... yes very fun idea indeed.
-- dag, Aug 05 2002

This is semi-baked, on two counts. In cheap chain restaurants in Japan, orders are placed through a ticket printing machine. Simply put your money in, press your choice and hand the print-out ticket to the waitron. In some extortionately priced Japanese restaurants in the UK, the waitrons have wee LCD handhelds on which they select your order and trasmit it to the surly-looking chefs in the back.

The Japanese: on a mission to make humans redundant.
-- calum, Aug 05 2002

This is a great idea! You should consider sending it to Denny's (the slowest restaurant in the history of the universe) and Burger King (fast food with slow service) :) cya!
-- youngwizard14, Aug 05 2002

(as 10 appetizer trays are delivered) For GOD SAKES- please only click the submit button ONCE!
-- Mr Burns, Aug 05 2002

While this seems a good idea, I think the mass student poverty it would cause, and the consequent skills shortage, youth suicide and increasing number of people going to work in telesales would outweigh any benefits. It's important to consider the social consequences of any invention.

On the other hand, I can see this being useful in foreign restaurants to avoid having to pronounce the names of foodstuffs.
-- pottedstu, Aug 06 2002

My sentiments are with DrCurry on this one. My wish for you, BC, is that you will eventually enjoy a meal at a restaurant that demonstrates how much more rewarding an experience it can be than simply satisfying one's hunger in an efficient manner.
-- beauxeault, Aug 06 2002

I wouldn't want this in every restaurant, but it would be nice sometimes. At the least you would (1) get what you ordered, (2) be able to get your check and credit card back in a timely manner, and (3) be able to order additional food or get the server's attention after your meal is at the table. I really think this would be an improvement for some restaurants. Maybe a novelty "futuristic" restaurant? OR, how about if you had a choice? The console is there on the table, but you can choose to order through the human server, or through the computer console (like those alternate self-checkout lanes in the supermarket).
-- stephee, Aug 06 2002

I'm afraid [beauxeault] and [DrCurry] are right. If one skipped over the first paragraph, I thought this was the beginning of a George Orwell short story.
-- watermelancholy, Aug 06 2002

Ever been to a Sonic drive in? It's a similar concept, you know. Just put a computer console on the pole so that instead of hearing "can I take your order?" over the speaker and speaking into the box, you just press an order button next to your burger, fries and drink. What is so wrong with that? You'll still *see* a human rolling out with your food (it's not so impersonal that it comes flying out of a chute, like a vending machine). I mean, they're probably inputting your order into a computer in the kitchen anyway... why not put it in yourself?

Another thing to think about: if you can swipe your card in the order console, then your card never falls into the wrong hands - I have heard of people getting their CC numbers stolen by handing off their card to a server in a restaurant... Just a thought.

BC, you've already got my croissant.
-- stephee, Aug 06 2002

Why not take this idea to it's logical conclusion and reduce the whole dining experience to simply being mildly sedated, then having the brain artificially stiumlated to release chemicals associated with good food, conversation, atmosphere, etc, while a tube to the stomach delivers a standardised "human food" containing all necessary nutrients. The type of food you wish to taste could be highly customised, and there could be 2 or 3 variations of human food depending on dietary requirements. The whole experience could be controlled by software (which is, of course, infallible) with an absolute minimum human interaction or supervision. Slow service will be a thing of the past.
-- DRstrathmore, Aug 07 2002

I don't think this is a good idea in social or economic terms. If we were to continue along the path created by ARMS, then eventually, no human services would be necessary and all service-based industries (hotels, massage parlors, restaurants, etc.) would be replaced by machines. We are talking about millions of jobs and billions of dollars being placed elsewhere (think about the tips, payrolls, tax dollars, etc.).

At the same time, I think that a lot of dining out or going to a hotel, etc. is the experience of good service. Any good restaurant will have good service and people like the feeling of being pampered. If I wanted to just eat the food from a restaurant, I could order it take out -- but eating out is about relaxing, spending time with friends, and getting great service.
-- wan-fu, Aug 26 2002

[wan-fu], [beauxeault], [DrCurry] all seem to be more right in this situation than I originally thought. I do believe that this device would be better suited to a fast-food or take-out environment where errors in ordering are much more common.
-- BinaryCookies, Aug 26 2002

I had a similar idea a few years ago, and I delivered it to a class full of MBA students where we were investigating new business models involving the Internet or Internet-enabled technology. It was shot down by a few mostly for the same reasons as those opposing it here.

I still like it though, and here's why. Although I agree that a percentage of people dining out do so for the service, I still think that the cost savings to the restaurant and the freshness of this idea make it worth a try. Consider many of today's restaurants and how you must interact with a host, drink waiter/waitress, a food order-taker, and finally a "food-runner" that brings out your food. What is so special about that?

For the restaurant owners, consider not only the cost reductions in wages and employment taxes, but also think about the fact that management can now view real-time data of ordering statistics and update menus dynamically to fit demand for a particular item in a geographic segment. For example, a new area of possibilities opens up when there are short-term incentives created by intelligent agents in the software looking for a lack of demand in a particular item--making a bargain on the spot for customers on a given night.

As mentioned, customers no longer have to wait around for the server to come around so that they can tell him/her that they want their bill, wait till they ring it up and come back, and then wait until they receive their change. This is good for the restaurant as well. This promotes faster customer turn-over. It gets more customers in-and-out faster. Okay, you can say that the server is what motivates customers to leave when they keep coming around saying "Is there anything else I can get you?" You could still put in place signals that it's time to leave, and it would be less annoying! Who said they like being served by humans who constantly badger you that it's time to leave?
-- drewk8, Sep 28 2002

random, halfbakery