Does This New Gadget Mean the End of Waitstaff?

Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic has an interesting piece on a new gadget called "The Presto" that might replace waiters at restaurants across the country. It works well for customers, since it's a menu, a way to order food, and a method for paying the check all in one Kindle-like package, and it can save restaurants tons of money. But does it mean the beginning of the end for the millions of people that support themselves by taking our orders?

"I cannot say for sure that this will be The Future of your restaurant experience, but ... I'm convinced that some sort of automated ordering system will make its way into your dining experiences," Madrigal writes. "And it's not because the technology is cool or whizbang or will draw customers. The real reasons are completely economic." The Presto only costs about a dollar a day per table, and can go even lower or end up being extra profitable if sponsors get involved — which many would like to be, according to The Presto's founder. But if you don't need waiters for taking orders or delivering the check, do you need them at all?

In a perfect world, waiters would be able to focus more on educating customers about the food and wine available if The Presto was taking care of more menial tasks. And the founder of The Presto says that employees that work in restaurants that use the device might be better off: "Their data shows that after their tablets are deployed, the staff's per-night tips tend to go up both because servers cover more tables but also because, for whatever reason, people tip better through the machine than they do otherwise."

But, as Madrigal points out, if a restaurant can save up to $45 per table by cutting staff, what will stop them from going server-less?

At the Restaurant of the Future, This Gadget Takes Your Order [The Atlantic]

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