iPad 2's Released in Restaurants: Will Tablets Replace Waiters?

Restaurants around the country are moving into the new technological age by installing iPads and other new technologies with which customers can place orders and perform additional tasks.

In the last few months tablet computers such as the iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab are being seen in an increasing number of restaurants, and taking over a number of tasks usually performed by waiters.

At Stacked in Torrance, iPads have been mounted on 60 tables, enabling customers to view the menu flipping through a touch screen. The system allows customers to choose entrees and sides, and send their orders directly to the kitchen.

When the meal ends, customers are also able to use the tablets for payment via credit card slots built into the tablet holders.

For Paul Montenko, the co-founder of the restaurant, the digital ordering regimen allowed him to open with a smaller-than-average staff. According to him, the system, that cost $1 million to be developed, made customers feel more involved in the process.

He justified that "in traditional settings, the communication between guests and the kitchen is so insufficient," according to the LA Times.

Monteko opened a second outlet in San Diego and he points out that "people's time is valuable. This kind of concept creates a different dynamic."

Other places that are adopting the digital system include Umami Burger, McDonald’s, Catch, Casa del Mar hotel among others.

"The iPads give the information that guests really want, as much as they want," said Simon Sorpresi, director of food and beverage at the Casa del Mar hotel, which houses the restaurant, according to the LA Times.

In a slightly strange development the digital revolution has also expanded to restrooms in some restaurants. Instead of mirrors, iPads provide built-in cameras and screens to show patrons their images for checking hair or makeup.

"It's all very futuristic, very 'Star Trek,'" said co-owner Christian Ruffin said to the LA Times.

Customers can also use tablet computers for ordering and for notifying valet parking while they are preparing to leave.

Previous attempts were made before the electronic ordering system became successful. The founder of the Atari video game company, Nolan Bushnell and Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain, started uWink in 2006, on which diners used touch-screen video terminals at tables to order food, play games and view entertainment clips.

However, although more uWink restaurants opened in other places such as Hollywood, Mountain View, Calif., Florida, the company was unsuccessful.

One of the reasons for this is that it can take a while for hardware and software to catch up with the concept, pointed Rajat Suri, the founder of the restaurant tablet maker E la Carte.

"It's only recently that the technology's been able to do this kind of thing on a mass scale," he said to the LA Times.

Another factor pointed is human interaction.

Nathan Blonkenfeld, who works for Wikia, a San Francisco company that provides a way for interest groups to form Web communities in which they can message and share information, said “I want that extra human element, to be able to talk to someone.”

"There's no computer device out there that knows exactly what you need."