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Sep 16, 2011 07:17 PM

iPad ordering- trend or new standard?

I like the iPad idea- one could dig deeper into a menu- sources of the ingredients, cooking techniques, alternative offerings (same dish, but made with veal instead of pork?) or alternative sauces for the same protein. Comparison charts for wine, rating acidity and characteristics, including parings by dish. Detailed descriptions of each offerings, etc.

Yes, a truly good server will know all these things. Yes, a truly good server can make suggestions the diner might not otherwise consider. Yes, a truly good server embodies hospitality, and that will never be done by an iPad.

But I like it. I like adding on to my meal as I go, I like controlling the pace of the meal. I like getting my bill whenever I damn well please.

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  1. Yes, and................a truly good server is a cost that has 'truly good value' with 'truly good food'. I see the iPad thing as a cost-saving measure for the more generic restaurant world. The information the iPad can provide would still be helpful in that world but not as much as where I really don't think this idea will ever reach. If I walked in for my reservation at The French Laundry and they handed me an iPad.............. I think I'd turn around and walk out.

    There's another topic here, somewhere, from someone who said they were doing academic research on this subject. I posted to it but can't seem to find it now.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Midlife

      I believe that thread was deleted (multiple times actually) because the Mods don't want business people coming on here and doing free market research.

      I think that you should combine the "best of both worlds" so to speak. I plan to give my servers the iPads. That way the information is available and so is the friendly face.

      1. re: PotatoHouse

        Gotta say- if a server came to my table with an iPad, I'd be disappointed that I was not using it.

        "Just gimmie the thing, and you can come back when I've input my order"

        But I'm strange that way.

        1. re: Fake Name

          >"if a server came to my table with an iPad, I'd be disappointed that I was not using it.">
          Even at The French Laundry? and........ not for the wine list. but to explain the tasting menu and all your options? Really?

          BTW, one of the two guys who own Stacked is a long-time friend. He is very much aware that this is a great idea but that any restaurant's success is ultimately based on the quality of the food and surrounding experience. Glad to hear (from your post on the SD Board) that you enjoyed it.

          1. re: Midlife

            The French Laundry, Daniel and restaurants of that ilk are places I would not yet expect electronic menus. But I suspect by the time Mr11 is ready to date and dine, it will be the standard. It simply makes to much sense. Printed menus will go the way of the "special" menus for women that have no prices.

            And, I'd disagree with your friend. There are many restaurants that are quite successful despite thier poor food. The right combination is somewhere in-between, I suppose.

            But yes, we had a very positive experience (albeit not Chowhoundish) at Stacked, as have other friends with kids, one of who raised an interesting issue. She had her daughter and 9 of her daughter's closest friends in tow. That didn't work too well with one iPad. But Stacked does provide the old-fashioned menus as well.

            Might as well have been written on parchment for their historic value ; )

            1. re: Fake Name

              >"I'd disagree with your friend. There are many restaurants that are quite successful despite their poor food."<

              Ummmm................. 'quality' is pretty subjective I guess. What he means is it can't survive on the "gimmick" of the iPad alone. I haven't been there yet, but I don't think his prices are low enough to be in the fast food chain arena, so it has to at least be "decent".

              1. re: Midlife

                Agreed, and sorry my point was not clear. I just think of Cheesecake Factory, thriving on some pretty bad food.

                1. re: Fake Name

                  I guess I'm not a true hound. I think Cheesecake Factory is pretty decent, but then............... all I ever order is the Thai Lettuce Wraps appetizer

      2. re: Midlife

        I agree it's not for every place, and at the beginning, it will burger/pizza places. But I suspect the younger crowd will take to it like fire takes to gasoline.

        If one thinks objectively about it, it's simply better for everybody- especially the diner. More information, better ability to control their own dining experience, etc.

        We old traditionalists may shudder, but it is a better way.

      3. One of the reasons I go out to dinner is to step away from technology. If a restaurant wants to provide that information fine, but the minute someone hands me an iPad, I'm out of there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: escondido123

          Oh, you rabid traditionalist!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;o))))))))

        2. Actually the Charles Palmer's at Bloomingdale's in Costa Mesa, CA introduced this concept years ago with their wine list on a tablet computer brought to the table. For some reason (I'm guessing it was too labor intensive to keep it up), it didn't last too long. It was wonderful! It was: always up to date; allowed searching by color, varietal, origin, price; included tasting notes and suggested pairings with menu items, number of bottles in stock (they allowed purchases to take home at retail pricing), etc. A terrific idea for a wine list...for a menu...I'm not sure.

          1. Dehumanizing the dining experience has no appeal to me. How depressing to envision the sight of some pathetic man, sitting alone, fondling his tablet, avoiding contact with all around him. Or, perhaps worse, the table of four sitting in silence as each is lost in a separate screen.

            Such places will no doubt exist and, perhaps, even to an extent prosper. They represent our society's version of the automat. Nevertheless, I think a human liaison between the restaurant and the patron is an essential element that will continue to define hospitality. The ability to utilize technology to learn more about the place and its offerings should not change this as the clever patron will do so before even crossing the threshold.

            At the end of the day, if I want complete control of my meal, I prepare it myself.

            5 Replies
            1. re: MGZ

              Yeah- I miss horses and buggies and the good old outhouse behind the barn. And self-serve gas has deprived me of the human contact at the filling station. ATMs are so pathetic, how sad one approaches a machine (a machine!) with which to interface with one's bank.

              Automatic transmission in cars are so impersonal.

              And those telephones- do we not all morn the loss of personal conversations with those far away?

              Stoves are now this fancy turn-the-knob and light them- gone are the good old days of stoking a good hot fire with some hardwood in the old cast-iron stove.

              I miss live theater, especially for the news. I bemoan the loss of going to the town square and hearing the town crier's call of "1100 o'clock and all is well!"

              And most of all, I miss gaslamps. These days of flipping a switch to illuminate one's pathway through the deep darkness is simply crass and pathetic.


              Truth is, folks, this is not the end of the dining experience as we know it. I'm confident restaurants will continue to provide limited information about their food on flattened sheets of wood pulp for those who arrive with tears in their eyes for the good old days.

              With some notable exceptions, most of the places offering true hospitality and an extensive knowledge of their food sources, techniques and specialties are long gone. Yes, upper-crust restaurants will continue to offer hospitality, just as the place one's napkin in one's lap with the gentle appropriate intimacy one should have for the private area of a stranger- (no- a guest!) in one's establishment.

              A clever patron realizes life changes, and blind dedication to the simpler, darker times is simply more windmill-charging.

              1. re: Fake Name

                Entertaining, though a bit off point. Digital menus in place of paper is probably a good idea; however, removing the social aspect of dining is not. Though followed to its conclusion, technology suggests that we should abandon food in favor of nutrition supplements. Similarly unappealing to me.

                1. re: Fake Name

                  Fake Name - You have an opinion and have stated it here. Others are not of your opinion and have replied here. Why do you dismiss all opinions differing from your as people stuck in the past? There are very good points being raised, and rather than addressing them, you simply repeat the whole progress, change, get with the times spiel. Computers are great for many things. The ATM was so revolutionary, not because it eliminated the teller, but because we could now get money out of the bank at any time. The newspaper, and later television news was great because it provided greater access to the news. Telephones were great because they provided greater, (not less), intimacy with people in real time.

                  I am also one of those people who loves the self checkout at the supermarket. I do not feel a need to interact with other people if I do not have to.

                  But. I think you underestimate a servers job. They do not simply take your order and give you your food. The server is the middle man between you and the kitchen. You think you can time your meal without any prior knowledge of the restaurant or the current state of the kitchen? Think again. Do you really think the computer can anticipate every possible question or request that can arise about the menu or special requests? An ipad can't read your table to determine what kind of dining experience you are looking for. An ipad doesn't know how to word requests to the kitchen so that they don't have a hissy fit and implode. Nor does an ipad know that the kitchen is really backed up right now, so you'd better fire those meals earlier than you usually would to ensure they get to the table at the proper time. Every restaurant is different, and a server is there to make sure you get what you want, how you want it and when you want it. It sound to me that what you are really looking for is a servant; and that is really a shame on so many levels. Also pretty demeaning to all the good servers out there.

                  1. re: Fake Name

                    I believe if telephones had been invented after email that we would all be saying "Isn't this wonderful. Now we can actually talk to people, hear their words and verbal cues, discuss options and reach a conclusion. All without having to sit down at a computer and email back and forth until things get resolved. What an invention!"

                    So if you consider a machine taking your order better than talking to a person who takes your order, then I guess the iPad is for you. I'll stick with talking to a real person.

                    1. re: escondido123

                      I laud the developments in communication and have quickly embraced each as they've developed (we've come a long way since getting mail order tickets over the Well). The technological advances that have made an interactive, digital menu possible, however, are at their best when empoyed to permit the connection of people and at their worst when they result in isolating them. My objections are borne of concern for the potential of latent sociological/psychological impacts from misuse.

                2. Begging the indulgence of Hilltowner, I'd like to continue and perhaps expand the discussion, so we can all learn from each other. I assume by posting my opinions, others may comment and make additional observations, some may, in fact, be contrary to my own. I welcome all opinions, and appreciate the participation of all concerned, and avoid any attempt to discourage comment- why would one want to do that?

                  Allow me please to discuss further the idea posited earlier about electronic ordering being an impediment to social behavior. I would respectfully and kindly disagree.

                  One (not the only!) of the many reasons I pay for a good restaurant meal is to indulge and appreciate the company of others, specifically, my dining companion(s). I don't see how an iPad-based menu system would be an impediment to that enjoyable activity. In fact, I can easily see an enhancement by providing much more information around which a culinary discussion could be built.

                  Obviously, if both parties are playing Angry Birds instead of using the tool to enhance their meal, the system would have failed. But I wouldn't dine with someone like that above the age of 16 or so.

                  Yes, an iPad-based menu might reduce the social interface I'd have with the staff- but here's the crux of the argument: Despite hilltowner's assumptions about me, I'm fond of servers, owners and staff or restaurants, spend a lot of time with these professionals and should I choose to socialize with them, I'll do it in the comfort of our own home as their host. In short, I don't dine out to socialize with the staff- it's rude to my dining companion, and is a timesuck to the professionals who are there to do their very difficult job.

                  Obviously, despite hilltowner's further assertions, (do you even know me?) I do not underestimate the value of a good server, house manager, expediter, chef, owner, nor investor, and I covered that in the original post. It's unsuggested that we throw away menus and servers- but I believe there are benefits to all parties with a well-built and written system. Such systems would be scaled and designed for the specific venue- the system that works for the local burger joint is not the same as a finer dining establishment.

                  <note: Not sure how I got thrown under the "server-hater" bus- it seems very odd to me. Never suggested anything of the sort>

                  May I quote myself in case it was missed in the first post?

                  " Yes, a truly good server embodies hospitality, and that will never be done by an iPad."

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Fake Name

                    " Yes, a truly good server embodies hospitality, and that will never be done by an iPad."

                    So, while I understand the essence of your position, I would suggest that the absence of that "hospitality" (and the related personal interaction with a server) is what those who decry this use of technology are talking about. Some see it as an erosion of what makes us what we are.

                    I can agree with you that, in terms of total time spent dining, interaction with the server is short compared with interaction among those at your table. But it's still an important part of the experience in most types of restaurants. I use Google a lot, but I think I'd rather ask a server what a certain preparation is like than Google in on the provided iPad.

                    Just my 2ยข.

                    1. re: Midlife

                      Thank you for your opinion, and I understand your point.

                      I'm suggesting the social interaction with a server is a modern phenomenon- at one point in history and tradition, the best service was as invisible as possible. Possibly the best service I've had was at Daniel or Fleur di Lys, and I honestly cannot remember a single server- they came and went with a whisper and avoided being intrusive as much as possible.

                      My companions, I remember well, and had a splendid experience.

                      I'm not there to interact nor socialize with a server- I'm there to interact with my companion(s). A good restaurant will encourage that, and will interrupt as little as possible.

                      I believe an electronic based menu would enhance that experience.



                      1. re: Fake Name

                        But I don't come to a restaurant to have an electronic-based experience, but rather to get away from them. It would feel to me a little like self-check out not a relaxed evening of being taken care of. I love technology, sometimes, but not when I'm out to dinner. I guess to each his own.

                        1. re: Fake Name

                          No question that interacting with your companion(s) is paramount in a dining experience. And...... I've been to The French Laundry and found the service to be 'ballet-like' and totally non-intrusive........... EXCEPT for the server who took our order and explained the whole tasting menu and what each course was like, including the optional add-ons.

                          I guess we just have to agree to disagree on this. I find each "progression" we make into the world of electronics to be chipping away at our human interaction. Come to dinner with me some time and see my 36 year-old daughter, my 31 year-old son, and now my wife....... all texting away. Around our family I'm known as the 'Master Googler', so I do appreciate the value of electronically available information and I am all for this advancement. I just also think that each step we take along this path (self-parking cars, no servers, artificial intelligence) take a toll on us that is pretty much irretrievable.

                      2. re: Fake Name


                        I believe you misunderstood me. I quite, absolutely agree that the server is not there to socialize with the customer. I'm not sure what you read in my reply to jump to that conclusion. I also heartily agree that the server should make themselves as unobtrusive as possible, (unless the customers WANT to chat with the server; and many do). Perhaps I am confused about your original post - what, exactly are you hoping the ipad can do that would be better/more beneficial than a real, live human?

                        Not sure why one post makes you think you were thrown under the server-hater bus. I never suggested that. I stand by my "demeaning to all the good servers" comment, though. Perhaps this one line out of many is what made you think I was attacking you. That's a shame. I stand by it not with anger or self righteousness, but to further the discussion. I truly believe that a servers job both at the table and behind the scenes is far more complex than an ipad can handle. But again, perhaps I have misunderstood your original posit. It sounded to me like you would like to use ipads for all your orders, and only have servers bring you stuff. Forgive me if I am wrong.

                        Again, I am not even getting into the hospitality issue here, just the logistics of running a restaurant well and of giving the customer what they want, when they want and how they want.

                        Thank you, though, for providing a little bit more clarity.