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Wanted: Wait Staff with PDA Experience
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Just came back from breakfast at Stacks in Menlo Park. Just your typical Monday morning breakfast with my husband. With coffee in hand and menu in the other hand, our waitress approached us with PDA in hand to take our order. This isn't just your ordinary PDA, it was a PDA with wireless connection. Just moments earlier I had noticed hubs around the restaurant with blinking lights. From my experience they did not look like a security system. So when the waitress took our order, it made sense and I immediately saw the PDA/wireless hub connection.

So as she was taking our order, it looked a little cumbersome to see her go through the menu screens. The hostess said it was definitely faster since in most cases many restaurants only had 2 terminals to enter order with several wait staff members. I could see how this could save time; For instance a typical scenario is a wait staff taking your order on a paper and then heading over to the order entry terminal where there could be 2 folks ahead of you. By taking your order once, and having it sent directly to the kitchen it could save time.

This is my first exposure to a new venue for PDA use to improve efficiency. It was kind of weird seeing our wait staff trying to fill our order one person at a time. If we were a party of 6 or 8, it may have taken longer. How much time is really saved? Yes the restaurant is innovative and possibly the first to implement this type of system, but what about the customer experience? I'm very patient, but to see the wait staff just stare really(concentrate) hard at the PDA screen, I wasn't sure if she was really listening to me.

Here are some interesting potential challenges:
a) software is still new, lots of bugs
b) the battery dies
c) the pda freaks out, the cursor doesn't go where it should
d) someone wants something that isn't on the menu
e) you spill food/drink on the pda
f) parties of more than 6, could take longer than expected. Backup system should be used.
g) the internal network goes down, does your staff(wait & kitchen) know how to take orders the old fashion way?


Posted on October 28, 2002 09:05 AM