Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Server Who?

Being in the tech world for as long as I have been I’m constantly excited when I read about how so many restaurant operators are beginning to use technology in their establishments to:

A) Save money and reduce costs
B) Interact win their patrons
C) Gather important customer profiles
and more...

Just the other day I was online ordering from Extreme Pizza and thought to myself, "the convenience of choosing my toppings and being able to specify certain requirements (hold the onions) is so convenient and easy, do we even need the order taker (at $x/hr) at the end of the phone anymore?" "How personal can automation be?" For some operators they think very....

About a week after my online ordering experience I received a coupon for $3 off my next order. Sounds fair I thought, but what really caught my attention was the follow through - I ordered online, why should I get a discount, I wasn't nice to the server or gave a particularly big tip? I got a discount because Extreme Pizza was able to connect with me, through technology in hopes I would be a returning customer. If I had called in would I still get a promo? I didn't speak to a single soul yet they won my business by staying connected to me.

Another great technology advancement I have come to appreciate is the table booking applications such as Open Table. Since I spend 80% of my waking life online, I love that OT will tell me what reservations are available and then recommend others if my preferred is booked. All without having to call and speak with someone (at $x/hr).

However the new innovation for me personally is the touch screen kiosks or terminals that restaurants are offering. It's like airport self check in meets ATMs: fast, convenient and loaded full of vital information and it's all available for me. At my own personal table!

Products I like:
TableTop media; compact yet full of surprises:
Uwink; you can even order a cab from the terminal:
And IDS Menus – who offer digital menus that can be changed when you change your menu:

In a world where we can buy groceries with our cell phones, and our cars can recommend restaurants I can't help but wonder, “are we heading towards a world where servers are the personality behind the plate, rather than the one who brings it?”

Looking forward to seeing what else the foodservice industry will take on next -



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