Interactive Restaurant Experience – What Happened to Conversations?

Restaurants have gone through so many iterations over the years.  They were initially designed to nourish travellers.  Up until recently, we enjoyed a restaurant for perhaps a quick meal, a celebration, a prelude to romance or maybe a lavish display of gourmet indulgence.  The restaurant had so many roles – we loved the ambiance, the menu, the lighting, the aromas, presentations, the fare, the location, the servers and chefs.  Beyond the nourishment, we had the opportunity to interact with our dining companions – to   talk sports, business, opportunity, love and life in general.  The engagement, the conversation was just as important as the meal for many.

Now, our dining relationship has moved to the interactive – essentially platforms and activities we could do by ourselves in our homes on our lap tops and tablets, snacking on Fritos.  The restaurant is a cuisine arcade!

It is pretty remarkable the leaps we have made in terms of that Customer Dining Experience in such a short time.  The technological interactive applications such restaurant mobile POS were noted in an earlier article.  We actually used to interact with each other, our server and other diners.

Our relationship with restaurants has changed dramatically.  We have seen it in the fast food and casual dining elements.  For fast food, the emphasis is on speed and accuracy.  In the casual dining realm it is more about guest control and access to all sorts of things which interrupt any conversation stream.  It goes beyond ordering and paying for the meal.  I can now tap into television, movies, music, on-line poker, send messages and the like.  I can do all that just by myself and not involve my table mate(s), who may be just as busy on his/her/their mission for access.  And, this is a world-wide phenomenon.

Just consider a restaurant in Dubai, where the establishment “… has installed interactive tables that allow guests to swipe through the menu update their Facebook status and even order a taxi home.  At this Restaurant in Dubai, interaction with wait staff is minimal, as diners can browse the digital menu, place their order, and watch chefs prepare their meal via ‘chef cams’ by using the touch screen tabletops.  The interactive tables also allow guests to customize their decor and choose from a range of images and patterns for their desktop ‘tablecloth.’  While waiting for their meal… guests can catch up on current news, check in on their Facebook messages or send greetings and virtual cards to diners at other tables.”  Connected – yes; digestible – maybe not!

So, has the conversation gone the way of service?  You be the judge.  May I interrupt your Facebook entry and have the salt, please!

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