Tablet Computers Replacing Servers

by Kara Kaloplastos

Smaller staff and better efficiency have lately been driving many restaurant owners to do away with wait staff in favor of tablet computers that enable guests to easily order and pay for their food. I first noticed this at a restaurant I dined at on Martha’s Vineyard, except that the process was more integrated. A server approached our table with an iPhone in hand and asked us what we wanted to drink. It seemed as though she was texting while we were giving her our order, and operating the device did not allow her to make the usual eye contact one would expect from a server. At the time, the experience made me feel confused and uncomfortable, and I can’t imagine that tablet computers are a much better idea.

Many restaurants now feature iPads that offer guests touchpad abilities in ordering their food and paying via credit card. This will supposedly save restaurant owners money and give guests better control over the ordering process.

There are so many reasons why I think this is a bad idea.

For one, it upsets me that guests would prefer ordering through a computer than from a legitimate human being. In a world where we write on someone’s Facebook wall instead of calling them on their birthday, can we not even tolerate the face time that occurs between a table and their server? To me, this is a solid part of one’s experience at a restaurant. A computer cannot offer me the personal care and attention to detail that a genuine human being can offer. The experience just doesn’t compare. Also, if a server does their job well, then there should be no reason for mistakes with the order. Sometimes errors do occur, but not any more than they would by ordering through a computer.

In addition, I do not think this is a good idea for the economy. Many people make their money in restaurants. It’s how I survived college, for one. Replacing people with computers is not a good way to help expand the job market. Plus, I can’t see how cutting wait staff saves all that much money, when servers make the majority of their money from tips left by guests.

Perhaps I am biased, but I really do detest the idea of tablet computers at tables. I fear that all face to face contact will eventually be replaced by computers. What does everyone think of this? Do you prefer interacting with a wait staff employee, or do you feel as though computers would be more beneficial for your dining experience?