Food: Restaurant: Ordering
Automatic Restaurant Table   (+8, -1)  [vote for, against]
Table input device that allows you to make out your order yourself...

How many times have you sat around in a restaurant waiting for someone to notice that you are giving the international symbol for "I am ready to order" ( stop looking at the menu) with no waitperson in sight? Many restaurants already have huge touchpad instruments for the staff to enter orders in, why not push that technology out to each table? Then you can order right away if you want to, nothing is forgotten (as it seems that most staff think of your order as a little memory training exercise, so they do not write anything down and hope to make it to the console before they forget anything...and heaven forbid if some other table askes for more bread while they are on the way.) Keyboards can be part of system so that special requests can be requested. No more confusion about what the specials are as they can be displayed as the "title" page. Tie the device to the kitchen and items can be removed as soon as the ingredients run out.

The table should also be equiped with a signal light (like they have on airplanes to signal the flight attendant) in case there are some questions that require human interaction.

Attach a Credit card reader and you could also eliminate the need to wait for the check.

This would free up all kinds of time for the wait-people to do things that people appreaciate the most...ask if everything is alright, fill water glasses, make sure there is plenty of bread, bring more alcohol etc.

Similarly, I think Fast Food places should provide some sort of reusable order device that people can pick up at the door and make out thier order while they wait in line. At the front of the line you hand over your device, the device is "swiped" or something, your order goes into the system and your amount to pay shows up. Again the chances for a communication breakdown and a wrong order is greatly reduced. (They could even implement un-reasuable cards with those little dots to fill in with a No. 2 pencil which is scanned at the head of the line.)
-- blahginger, Jun 29 2000

Eliminating all of these tasks for the waitstaff will undoubtedly eliminate some of the waitstaff.. as well as a reason for a tip. What would college kids do for work? A restaurant only needs so many water and bread specialists. I do think that technology will march on, and we will see your idea soon enough.
-- bshears, Jun 30 2000

Makework isn't the answer.

But the technology has been around forever; remember those restaurants that had little mini-jukeboxes at each table? If they could do that, surely they could have installed pushbutton menus as well. I even seem to remember articles about restaurants doing that.

Maybe people like human service. Eating's a social thing, anyway.

Oddly, sushi restaurants (which are neither "fast food" nor cheap) often use the slip-of-paper-with-checkboxes approach.
-- egnor, Jun 30 2000, last modified Oct 29 2000

Don't worry, bshears. All those poor college students can get lucrative jobs cleaning and repairing the input devices. The buttons/touchscreen for the more popular menu items will get grimy and worn out quite quickly if the restaurant is any good. At my local gas station, they replace the pad cover on the payment kiosk every couple of months as the buttons for Enter, Okay, and some of the more common numbers (who knew?) get eroded. Proximity to food, children, and drunks will probably not enhance the lifespan of such a device.

Hey, I just thought of a half-baked idea...
-- centauri, Jun 30 2000

I've been to at least one restaurant where the menu was printed on a cheap slip of paper, and each item had a check box, which was to be checked to order the item. The wait(er/ress) simply collected the menus and took them to the kitchen.
-- beauxeault, Jun 30 2000

Another useful additional feature to the automated table would be to add a highly-visible display indicating the amount of elapsed time since the order was placed, which could only be turned off by delivering the order. This would protect against customers being ignored simply because "the machine's taking care of it."
-- beauxeault, Jun 30 2000

At Bennigans they will start a stopwatch at your table when they take your lunch order. If the food is not delivered in 15 minutes it is free.
-- blahginger, Dec 19 2000

Egnor - the paper's with checkboxes at Sushi restaurants are a polite way for the proprietors to help us poor American wraps our toungues around the Japanese language (this is NOT meant as an insult to ANYONE!!!!) It eliminates confusion and no one is insulted - a very civilized approach.
-- chili2k, Jan 02 2001

I'm insulted.
-- centauri, Jan 02 2001

I ain't never seen one of those checkbox sushi things, and I live in Japan. But, then again, I speak the language. It ain't much of a tongue-twister of a tongue; I think it's more of a gut-buster.
-- Vance, Feb 08 2001


I like your idea very much in fact I myself have been thinking about the same idea. Have you seen similar devices at any restaurants?

-- bingtheman, May 23 2001

I am an ent. major and I am working on an idea similar to this for my first project, however a bit more innovative and a bit more realistic ...not relying COMPLETELY on the computer, but using them to make an experience for a customer more satisfying. .. I have a few ideas that Im actually looking to incorporate into a future business venture. Any new ideas since the dark ages of 2000? :o)
-- asiago, Sep 16 2002

[blahginger] I really do not appreciate being asked if everything is alright whilst I am having a meal at a restaurant.
-- kaz, Sep 16 2002

. . . how about while you are annotating? Is everything alright [kaz]?
-- bristolz, Sep 16 2002

Everything except the interruptions [bris].
-- kaz, Sep 16 2002

[kaz] - don't worry so much about the interruption asking if everything is alright. They really don't want an answer; otherwise they wouldn't wait 'till your mouth was full.
-- lurch, Sep 16 2002

random, halfbakery