Interactive technologies are showing up at restaurants, creating an ever-changing atmosphere, precious communication and fantastic entertainment.
Recently, I went to lunch with a friend; it was a chance to catch up and treat our daughters. Before we sat down, the girls noticed the kiosk at our table and instantly started playing games. They assured us that nothing popped up on the screen concerning charges, so we allowed them to continue playing whatever word game caught their attention.
When it came time for the bill, we noticed an extra charge on our receipt. No surprise, it was an "entertainment charge" for the kiosk that we didn’t even ask to have at our table in the first place. When I told the waitress that no warning or message was available to explain the charges, she pointed out the incredibly small text in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Apparently, you have to read the fine print while dining, lawyers.
My expression must have come off as somewhat intimidating, because she immediately said that she would speak with the manager to refund us for the charges. I thanked her, and tried giving her my card to pay for the meal, when she pointed out the card reader on the kiosk. “Is that going to charge me extra for using it?” I asked.
“Oh no. It’s real simple. Just slide your card and sign your name.”
Yeah, right. After my friend swiped her card a couple of times, she was then asked a series of questions concerning tip, food quality, demeanor of the waitress, and overall dining experience. You couldn't even complete the transaction without completing the survey. When it was my turn, the card reader failed, and I just paid in cash, refusing the server’s suggestion of swiping the card in the back. “I tried giving you my card before and you told me to use the kiosk, so you can just take the cash and keep the change.” My tone must have been rash, because she nervously apologized for the inconvenience and hurried back to the kitchen area.
The restaurant’s failed attempt of being more convenient to the consumer reminded me how aloof our society continues to be. And I question if interactive technology in restaurants really needs to be the next big thing.
Ukraine-based Kodisoft thinks it does, and has already deployed several products to help make dining facilities more interactive.
According to Kodisoft, the future of dining consists of "an ever-changing atmosphere, precious communication, and fantastic entertainment." Consumers will not have to wait for a server to take their order. They can learn about the food they are eating, while at the same time, meet others who are dining at the same facility.
While I wouldn’t mind experiencing an interactive table that tells me the origins of cheesecake, I’d rather spend my dining experience catching up with my family and friends. Spending most of my days behind a computer screen, I enjoy the moments with my daughter talking about dance, books, and the most recent 5th grade gossip – always good to know that slap bracelets are making a comeback, and Niall One Direction, is not the cute one.
I think it’s time to bring real conversation, at least interaction, back to mealtime, and place interactive technology somewhere else. The more we communicate through technology, the less connected we become with ourselves.
Would you want interactive technology at your dinner table? How would you like to order a meal without a waitress? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or post your comments below.