Anything I say about this will make me sound like an old crank

Ladies and gentlemen, the MenuPad. And as the commenter says, “painfully unecessary.”

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Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

6 thoughts

  1. I think it’s a great idea. It would allow the chef or restaurant management to change the menu on the fly, even in the middle of meal service, either as things run out or to cut prices on things that the restaurant wants to “move” (all within food safety guidelines, of course). Add security to the device so that it’s locked and useless when removed from within a certain perimeter.

    It would allow the customer to drill down if (s)he wanted, to find out more about a certain dish– and there should always be an opportunity for asking questions of a human. That human might not be a traditional “waiter,” but then again, (s)he might. The live, interactive menu could be synched, in real time, to the restaurant’s website. The results from the interactions between restaurant and customers should improve the restaurant’s ability to satisfy its customers as well.

    At $400-500 per iPad, it’s probably not cost-effective, but you know where the prices of such devices are going– and when they’re manufactured to have a limited function, they should be cheaper still.

  2. To back up Cyrano’s point about “drilling down”, as a farmer who sells to restaurants I love the idea that a diner could see my name on the menu (e.g. with Chert Hollow Farm pickles”) and be able to follow a link to the farm’s website and learn more about the source of the food. And the chef could certainly include more information about the preparation and so on. For those who don’t care, nothing would change. For those who do, it would add a really neat dimenstion to eating out. Imagine, for example, interactive wine/beer lists with more information on the source and brewers/vintners…

    There’s also potential fo real-time anonymous kitchen feedback. Almost no one has the guts to tell the server “actually, this is crap”. But if there’s a form or survey or something that could be used to give some feedback, the kitchen would learn much more about preferences and tastes. It reminds me of the technology increasingly in use in college lecture halls, in which students all have a little clicker-thing they use to respond instantly and anonymously to live questions/quizzes/etc. thus making the class more engaged and the professor more informed.

    Funny to hear myseld jumping on this as an oft-tech-luddite, but I see real potential in this one and it wouldn’t be invasive in the way many applications of modern media are.

  3. Bah, humbug! I want a human being to be able to take care of that for me (tell me about the preparation, producers, etc.). It’s hard, but isn’t that what good service is?

    Oh. And get off my lawn!

  4. You have more faith in the culinary knowledge and communications skills of the averge waitron than I do (and I was a waitron when I was young).
    And if you’re expecting the skills of a headwaiter and a sommelier from Mitzi (“Hi guys! I’ll be your server!”) at Applebee’s, then expect away.

    The whole “waiter” thing is in large part a relic of days of servants, which creates much of the tension between waitstaff and customers. Me, I’d rather go talk to the chef/cook about what’s good, maybe watch him/her prepare it and see if (s)he’s willing to talk while (s)he’s preparing it, and take it back to the table myself. I could see a daily message from the chef on what’s good (i.e., a special based on some wonderful produce she found at the farmer’s market this morning).

    It’d all be in the execution– if the MenuPad conveys easily accessible, genuinely useful information, then it works. If it’s a silly, dumb toy, then it won’t. I still think the best use for it would be to adjust menu prices on the fly depending on information the chef has at 9 pm that (s)he didn’t have at 6 pm.

  5. Still with Cyrano on this one; I’ve found that even at better restaurants, the waitstaff have only a hazy idea of where the food is from, who grew it, what ranch the meat’s from, etc. They might be more familiar with the actual preparation, but rarely seem to know more than that. And may be unfair to expect them to.

    Another thought here, it would save printing costs for places that update menus constantly (like Sycamore). Might take a while to recoup the cost, but instead of reprinting new paper menus all the time to reflect whatever’s just come in, you just update digitally.

    To be honest, I might recoil the first time it was given to me, too. But I like the concept a lot if well-done.

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