Some restaurants are switching from hand written orders to various electronic order pads. On the surface, the technology is intriguing but does it really improve service and enhance the guest’s experience?
Perhaps the biggest argument in favor of implementing these new hand held systems is efficiency. If a server can take a guest’s order and send it to the kitchen at the same time they are, in theory, speeding up the ordering process. Or do they? Traditionally, when a server takes an order, they use their own shorthand to write down the guest’s meal. This is typically done as quickly as a guest speaks. Assuming the restaurant is using a POS system, the waiter then leaves the table and inputs the order into their system. However, when you consider the extra time it takes to input an order in on these smaller handheld devices (especially with their guest staring at them) and the inconsequential amount of time it takes to write an order, the kitchen doesn’t really get the ticket much faster. And what if, as many guests do, they change their mind a few minutes after the order was taken? Now you have a Filet on the grill that has to be voided. With these new hand held devices, guests are now subjected to sitting there, bored, as the waiter enters their order. With even the fastest servers, on larger, more user friendly POS systems this process can take a couple of minutes depending on how many crazy modifies there are (which are considerably more challenging to enter on these smaller hand held devices). Is this what guests’ want or would they prefer to engage in conversation with their dining companions? Perhaps most importantly, when a waiter enters an order into a POS system, their attention should be focused on imputing the order correctly. This is in direct contrast to what a server should be focused on the table, their guests. Consequently, these new systems shift a waiter’s focus at the table from the guest to the electronic tablet. Of course there are dollar and cents issues as well. While this technology is becoming less expensive, it is still considerably more costly that a paper pen (or Waiter Wallet). The technology is also not well suited for restaurant activity and the fragile devices can easily slip out of a server’s wet hands. And heaven forbid the server gets one of those infamous spinning balls while trying to input an order. Lastly, it is important to consider the server and provide them with tools that help them perform their job better. After all, the better they perform the better service your guest receives. So, does belaboring them with a large tablet they have to lug around and worry about make sense? While I love technology and I’m often the first person in line at the Apple Store when a new version of anything comes out. But this is one bit of progress I question. Just because I can use technology to break up with my girlfriend doesn’t mean I should use technology to break up with her (not that I’m breaking up with you sweetheart).