Innovative start-up company E la Carte has created a device that could make waiters obsolete. It’s called Presto tablet and it lets diners order food with the click of a button.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology dropout Rajat Suri founded E la Carte in 2009, which has already sold Presto tablets to 300 restaurants and expects that number to grow to 1,000 by the end of the year, The Atlantic reported.
In an interview with Fast Company, Suri said, “It’s cool because we’re almost inventing a new category. There are web apps and mobile apps, (but) who’s putting software into places where you can go and engage with software in places you didn’t before?”
Presto does not just take orders, it also shows each meal’s nutritional information and allows customers to filter menu options by typing food instructions. Presto also has a 18-hour battery life, displays photographs of meals, predicts when food will arrive, provides games, splits checks, calculates tips and reads credit cards. A receipt can also be emailed to customers. This is the first tablet to encompass all features in one device.
“It’ll have a larger presence in fast food, where a quicker turnaround matters,” senior industry analyst at IBISWorld Nima Samadi said about tablet menus in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “In traditional, full-service restaurants, it’s still kind of a gimmick.”
Santa Monica College psychology sophomore Alexa Palacios is a frequent visitor at a Torrance restaurant that utilizes the tablets. Stacked, which has a sister restaurant in Fashion Valley, is one of many eateries now using this technology as a form of service.
“I don’t really like it that much,” Palacios said. “The service is disengaged because nobody has a specific table — they all just walk around aimlessly. I don’t think it worked out like they wanted it to.”
Recalling her own experiences as a waitress, she added, “I understand they meant to be tech savvy, but because the service is horrible it ruins the experience. You have to stop anyone to get anything because no one personally tends to you.”
Some restaurants are using tablets in diverse ways. Bones in Atlanta uses the tablet to display its wine list. The Lark Creek Steak restaurant in San Francisco uses Presto to advertise its steaks. Umami Burger utilizes the tablet as a means of attracting customers to its Los Angeles-based chain.
With the advent of the Presto tablet, restaurants may be creating a direct connection between the kitchen and the customer, while also allowing a fresh way to promote menus. But at what cost?
Tablet computers could eventually replace waiters at some restaurants, and with them social interaction and personalized service.
However, according to Suri, E la Carte isn’t aiming to replace waiters. It’s simply making the whole experience more efficient while filling the gaps of tableside service within the restaurant.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “E la Carte’s research shows the tablet can cut a restaurant’s labor costs by 26 percent, increase sales by up to 10 percent per check and reduce how long diners linger at the table by seven minutes.”
Whether customers prefer one-on-one human interaction or Presto, it seems these tech savvy devices will be here to stay.
“It’s the future,” owner of Palo Alto’s Calafia Café and former executive chef for Google Charlie Ayers said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “People say it’s very inhospitable. But it’s the epitome of hospitality. It empowers the guest to get in and to get out.”