Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Would you order bouillabaisse from a computer?

The E la Carte ordering system lets diners order without the aid of a waiter.

E la Carte

Failed actors are crying somewhere.

A Canadian MIT student may have changed the face of fine dining with the launch of E la Carte this week: The electronic tablet lets diners order and pay without waiting - for a waiter.

No more " Garçon!" or air signing - the international symbol for cheque please - the handheld, touch-screen tablets let customers scroll through menus and tap at their meals of choice. Once placed, orders are spit out through another computer in the kitchen, where human cooks prepare the food.

Story continues below advertisement

The device counts down a meal's ETA and even helps diners bide their time: Children can use the tablet to doodle and colour and parents can update their Facebook accounts or play trivia games.

The E la Carte also lets clients split the bill any number of ways with all methods of payment, a request that often gets eye rolls from human staffers forced to work out the math.

The tech has been rolled out in a few dozen locations in Boston and San Francisco, and creator Rajat Suri has reportedly partnered with a major U.S. chain - rumour has it it's Applebee's.

Mr. Suri says his tablets are more efficient than human waiters - and more profitable, saving on labour costs and upselling 10 to 12 per cent more food with well-timed suggestions and tantalizing photos.

Ultimately, humans are still required to deliver the food and refill your water glass, so don't think about skipping the tip.

While the tablets may dehumanize the restaurant experience, they're still better than these creeps: In one restaurant in China, robots cycle food to the table, while in Thailand, samurai-garbed androids dance stiffly throughout the meal.

Would you rather deal with a person or a machine at dinner out?

Story continues below advertisement

This version of the story has been updated.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Zosia More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.