Ordering food in a restaurant via iPad is so 2010. Think beyond the iPad. Imagine a future without waiters, without anyone asking you if you want sparkling or still. Without the condescending glance of a server who thinks they know so much. Imagine sitting down to dinner at a table lit by an overhead projector and interacting with the projections on the table in front of you. Your order? Placed by the swipe of a finger. This is the future of restaurants, at least according to Mark Boyle, sales director for E-Table, a projection ordering system that is already in several restaurants.
Can you briefly explain the E-Table concept?
E-Table puts diners in control of the ordering process. They can place orders for food and drink straight to the kitchen or bar.
What was the inspiration for this idea?
The founders of the company came up with the idea whilst out for a meal when they could not catch the waiting staff’s attention.
What are the components and how does it work?
The E-Table system uses overhead projection to deliver a menu and other digital images to a restaurant table-top.
Images are projected on tables? Don’t people interfere?
Projected images do overlay food dishes in our restaurant but the system can be designed as clients want. We in fact have a clear display i.e. no projection over the plate.
How do people interact with the system?
There are two touch panels built in to each table, which allow guests to browse the menu, place orders, and interact with the system.
Are there sounds?
There could be but we do not use them in our own restaurants.
What’s the advantage of using E-Table over say, iPads?
Projection technology means surfaces can be waterproof, hardened and easy to clean, which makes them more suitable to food and beverage outlets.
How does a restaurant implement this system?
We and our partners can provide full working solutions which include hardware, software and services, which deliver a client’s brand, menu, and language to the table-top.
How much does it cost to implement?
This depends on the size of the restaurant. A restaurant with a minimum of 70 seats or more and an average bill of $35 or more could achieve a return on investment within 12 months subject to their business model.
What kind of upkeep does the system require?
We provide software maintenance and can train restaurant staff or partners in the hardware maintenance, which generally comes with manufacturers' warranties.
You note the system empowers customers to order, and enables restaurants to make customers happy, and reduce waitstaff costs by about 30%. What about when you order and realize you don’t want something, or you didn’t know there were things you were allergic to? You’re still flagging waitstaff, no?
You can call a waiter with the system. You can highlight components/ingredients of each dish on the system, which can easily be updated through the Content Management System by restaurant staff.
Aren’t you going to need staff devoted to updating the system? Is it really more effective, and cost-effective?
The Content Management Systems has been designed to be simple and easy to use. Full-time staff are not required to manage the system.
Two restaurants use this technology in the UK, and there's another restaurant on the way in the Netherlands?
Correct. Inamo has been open since August 2008, Inamo St. James since December 2010, and Izkaya in Rotterdam opens in March 2011.
What effect has this had on restaurant experiences where it has been implemented?
Inamo and Inamo St. James continue to get very positive feedback from guests and a lot of repeat business.
The system allows for table-side advertising. Some might argue that in the age of information overload this represents another advertising inroad into a private sphere. How do you respond to that?
A user of the E-Table system can choose how much or how little advertising they wish to deliver through the E-Table platform. It can be used to brand group events such as corporate dinners, parties etc.
What do you think the effect is on the human element of restaurant interaction?
Waiting staff still bring and remove dishes so human interaction continues.