Restaurant flagging Matt 08 Feb 2006

112 comments Latest by JERRY

mailboxWhenever I’m having difficulty getting a waiter’s attention, I wonder why I’ve never seen a restaurant with some sort of mailbox flag system for alerting servers when diners need attention. Y’know, put a flag on the corner of each table. Flag up = I’m ready for the check, need more water, etc. Flag down = Everything’s copacetic. Not terribly classy but seems like a more efficient system than the traditional waiting for a waiter dropby/eye contact chase.

112 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Anonymous coward 08 Feb 06

Ever heard of Casa Bonita?

DougUp 08 Feb 06

Guess you’ve not visited one of the “worst” mexican restaurants in the world named Pancho’s. It’s an all you can eat cafeteria kind of place. Every table has a flag that they can raise when they want more food.

“Please sir, may I have another grease-filled enchilada!”

andy 08 Feb 06

hehe yeah but if she dosent do her job well, then we dont give her a nice tip

Darren James Harkness 08 Feb 06

A better idea is to examine the processes involved in the waiter’s job, and see what the bottleneck is in checking on you in a timely manner. After all, a waiter can ignore a little flag just as easily as a wave or eye contact.

Ed Hill 08 Feb 06

Bubba Gump’s (or whatever it is called) does something similar as well

ChrisH 08 Feb 06

Yeah, there are a few places that have a similar system to Pancho’s flag system…a couple of them also being dinner movie theatres where you can eat dinner while watching a 1st run movie.

ML 08 Feb 06

Nope, never been to Casa Bonita, Pancho’s, or Bubba Gump’s. How well does the flag system work at those places?

Chris Evans 08 Feb 06

Joey’s Barbecue in located in Pomona, CA has a system like this. Each table has a flag pole, and you run the flag up when you want attention.

Joe Parker 08 Feb 06

They could just install a simple touch screen at every table where you submit your order, ask for a fork, more water, napkins, etc. Then the cooks can start making food the moment order is placed and a group of waiters can service all the tables, bringing you food and supplies as needed. That would cut the round trips a waiter makes from kitchen to table and back in half.

But it may seem too impersonal.

Justin D-Z 08 Feb 06

Part of what separates a good waiter from a bad waiter is their ability to track and manage all their table check-ups so that no flagging is necessary. It’s probably important to the social and economic tiers of restaurant prestige and classiness that there be a clear separation of good waiters and bad waiters and, by extension, good restaurants and average restaurants.

Restaurants that aren’t concerned with prestige and classiness could use a system like that to cater more to the modern fast-paced lifestyle. I pay the tip based on the experience. I don’t generally care how the experience is achieved. But, then again, I’m not very classy.

A lot of the Gaucho style restaurants have a “give me more meat” chip. In this case, it’s purely to indicate to roving bands of servers (not waiters) that they should drop off another slab of dead animal.

Pius Uzamere 08 Feb 06

Reminds me of the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode in which Larry David insists that all tables at his new restaurant have bells with which patrons can summon waiters. Everyone laughed at him, but the idea worked pretty well!

Dan Boland 08 Feb 06

Fogo de Chao has coasters with a green side and a red side. Green up means “see if I want the kind of meat you’re walking around with”, red up means “don’t bother me.”

JamieS 08 Feb 06

There used to be a place called MaBell’s in Tulsa that had a phone on every table. A central dispatch in the back would then route your request to your server. It seemed like more of a gimmick than a useful feature, but I suppose it could work in some places.

Maybe servers should give you their IM name or phone number as soon as they introduce themselves so that you can send them text messages if you need something.

Anonymous Coward 08 Feb 06

Sumimasen! In Japan, you just call out sumimasen “Excuse me!” and the waitstaff hustles. Often they won’t stop by your table unless you call for attention. That takes some visitors a long, slow evening to figure out.

Bob 08 Feb 06

The wife and I went to Bubba Gump’s while in Charleston,SC last summer.

Each table has a sign that reads “Run Forest Run” on one side and “Stop Forest Stop” on the other.

If you need attention you just turn it so the side that reads “Stop Forest Stop” is facing out.

Seemed to work well as far as I could see.

They also stop by to quiz you on Gump trivia. I think we missed two.

The food was average or slightly better. But it was a fun experience overall.

If you like Italian, try Bocci’s in Charleston. Not far from the Market. Great food. No affiliation, just a happy customer.

Lance Willett 08 Feb 06

Reminds me of the “Attendant Needed” light on airplanes. It helps them know when their help is needed. They don’t have to keep walking around the plane making sure everyone is alright.

I worked in food service all during high school and college and there were certainly times when a flag would’ve helped a ton. For example, if I was not sure whether people were done or not and didn’t want to hover and try to make eye contact.

Anyway, cool idea…

Mark 08 Feb 06

Dan beat me to the Fogo de Chao link. I love how that works with the red and green chip they give you. As long as the chip is green side up, you get never ending attention - red, and they all leave you alone.

On the other side of the coin of the waiter that can never be found is the waiter who will seemingly never leave, coming around every few minutes or so to ask “is everything alright?”

Brian Breslin 08 Feb 06

when I was in japan at some “american-style” restaurant, each table or booth had a signal button of sorts. can’t remember the name (want to say friendly’s or something), and the waitresses used little computers to enter your order (this was in 2002).

Kendall 08 Feb 06

I prefer the whistling and snapping my fingers approach… It’s oh so discreet.

Michael Nguyen 08 Feb 06

I’ve been to several korean restaurants (drop by your local korea town) that have the “attendant” light or a buzzer.

I think the buzzer is a bit tacky, but it really gets the attention of the waiter.

Jason 08 Feb 06

There’s a restaurant change here in Indiana, Pizza King, that has a little scale train that has a track that runs by each table. There’s a button/intercom system on the wall under the track that lets you page the kitchen and place your order and/or ask for refills/service.

The really cool part is that they deliver your drinks on flatbed cars that are pulled by the train itself. Really neat little experience. My kids love it! Each table also has a TV with cable and a Sony Playstation. Regretfully, most of the controllers have been trashed.

Troy 08 Feb 06

In Kansas City, there is a railroad-themed restaurant that has a phone a every table. A greeter shows you to your table and hands you a menu. When you’re ready to order, you pick up the phone and place your order. A train brings the food to your table. If you need anything else, you just pick up the phone and request it.

This system works well because the restaurant has a small dining area. They can put more patrons in the dining room and reduce the number of servers.

Jon Maddox 08 Feb 06

Maybe think of this from the Waiters perspective because he’s 50% of this routine. Having systems like this may just overwhelm the waiter when he sees 5 flags up. Who’s is more important?

Jon 08 Feb 06

or how about the waiter just checks often. yesterday me and the girlfriend went to seasons in vancouver and they refilled our water whenever it was near or below half.
must have come by like 5 times.
great service.

Chris 08 Feb 06

The Bubba-Gump shrimp place at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco does this with license plate flipper on your table. Forget what they say, but they’re two distinct colors — one for content, one demanding attention.

Ryan Schroeder 08 Feb 06

Blue C Sushi in seattle has got a little light above the tables that you can set off when you need attention. It’s a conveyor belt place, so it really helps.

Tomas Jogin 08 Feb 06

I think the lack of attention from waiters is entirely intentional, they’re on a powertrip and make you wait because they have crummy jobs and need to compensate for that.

Kevin 08 Feb 06

Why should a customer have to do anything to get attention? Isn’t the job of a server to be there to wait on a customer and make sure they’re happy? If a server can’t handle that simple task, don’t eat there anymore. My problem is in Miami Beach, the tip is almost always included anywhere you go, I’m guessing because of the strong tourism industry and people not knowing about customary tipping policies, and once a server serves you your meal, they disappear. Now that’s annoying, because since the tip is already there and is based on the price of what you ordered, the server drops off the planet never to be seen again.

Ethan 08 Feb 06

I love that cause you have to like watch for the waiter/waitress and that distrupts your meal.

Adams 08 Feb 06

Guess you�ve not visited one of the �worst� mexican restaurants in the world named Pancho�s. It�s an all you can eat cafeteria kind of place.

Pancho’s isn’t all you can eat - it’s all you can stand.

TP 08 Feb 06

Sorry about multiple posts…my browser timed out on me…wasn’t trying to overly promote that website.

Josh Williams 08 Feb 06

Adams — You beat me to it. “Raise the flag. Lose your lunch.”

Anonymous Coward 08 Feb 06

Adams � You beat me to it. �Raise the flag. Lose your lunch.�

It’s TexBlech.

Stridey 08 Feb 06

This seems like a great idea, especially because you could easily put a contact on the bottom of the flag and have a lightboard in the kitchen (airplane style). It imroves service for every table, because the waiters have to take less extraneous time checking on people who are happily eating.

David 08 Feb 06

I have used a phone system also—50’s restaurant where waitress has a coin dispenser on her belt. Order by phone, pay for your food and then the only interaction is the guy with the water pitcher.

When waiting duties are split I usually see kitchen staff deliver food, or separate dedicated water/drink waiters.

As far as Miami Beach tipping—TIP = To Insure Promptness. If there was no promptness, ask the manager for the tip back. They are taking advantage of the high likelyhood they don’t need to depend on repeat customers.

FuzzyFree 08 Feb 06

This nice thing about the system at Bubba Gump’s is that when your flag is red (“Stop, Forrest, Stop!”), ANY waiter/waitress must stop at your table, regardless of who’s assigned to your table. And if you are ever going there check out my favorite dish there: The “Bucket of Boat Trash”.

Jesse K 08 Feb 06

I can’t tell you how happy I was to see Casa Bonita the first to be mentioned. Someone told me that it was also in an episode of South Park, where Cartman had a dream about their sopapillas.

Casa Bonita is Colorado’s state treasure. Granted, the food might make you ill, but they do have a haunted cave, an arcade, and yes folks… an indoor waterfall with divers and a gorilla escape show. AND it’s been around forever.

Oh and mini flag poles with little flags too.

Tony 08 Feb 06

Maybe I’m just rude (or maybe just shameless), but if I’m at a restaurant and I need help, I just ask for it. My motto is, “you won’t get what you don’t ask for.” It works better than sitting around getting furious at the waiter for not asking if you need anything.

Dave Rosen 08 Feb 06

When I lived in China they had a great system where if you place your chopsticks across your bowl/plate they know your ready for the bill and too leave. Likewise if you need more tea you just put the lid of the teapot sideways. brilliant.

Mark 08 Feb 06

Fogo de Chao does this. The instant you turn your card from red to green, a swarm of tasty-meat-on-spear-waiters starts buzzing around your table.

tamimat 08 Feb 06

i like the : waiter dropby/eye contact chase.

Gayle 08 Feb 06

Maybe I�m just rude (or maybe just shameless), but if I�m at a restaurant and I need help, I just ask for it. My motto is, �you won�t get what you don�t ask for.� It works better than sitting around getting furious at the waiter for not asking if you need anything.

Ah, but who do you ask if you can’t find anybody? That’s the issue: finding and gaining the attention of a waitperson.

And I think the mailbox flag is BRILLIANT, never having heard of any of the above-mentioned restaurants, up here in the great white north.

Gayle 08 Feb 06

Maybe I�m just rude (or maybe just shameless), but if I�m at a restaurant and I need help, I just ask for it. My motto is, �you won�t get what you don�t ask for.� It works better than sitting around getting furious at the waiter for not asking if you need anything.

Ah, but who do you ask if you can’t find anybody? That’s the issue: finding and gaining the attention of a waitperson.

And I think the mailbox flag is BRILLIANT, never having heard of any of the above-mentioned restaurants, up here in the great white north.

Dave Simon 08 Feb 06

The flag thing made me think Casa Bonita as well.

Which, in turn, made me think of Cartman faking Butters’ death.

I remember my grandfather always taking the family to the old Family Diner in Billings, MT (where I grew up) � they had a phone at the table to call in your order. Pretty cheesy, really.

pk 08 Feb 06

okay, i’ll point at the big white elephant. why exactly is everyone so averse to simply waving at the waiter? that’s kind of weird. i mean, you need service, tell someone.

Tony 08 Feb 06

Ah, but who do you ask if you can�t find anybody? That�s the issue: finding and gaining the attention of a waitperson.

If nobody is there to ask, no one will be there to see the flag either!

Kevin 08 Feb 06

Why not blow a horn or wave your used napkin?!
Honestly you have no class, no class whatsoever.

Go to a good restaurant, be friendly and behave well and you will enjoy a great service most of the time.

Darrel 08 Feb 06

“Casa Bonita is Colorado�s state treasure. Granted, the food might make you ill, but they do have a haunted cave, an arcade, and yes folks� an indoor waterfall with divers and a gorilla escape show. AND it�s been around forever.”

That episode of South Park now makes a whole lot more sense.

I have to find one of these train serving restuarants. Cheesy as hell, but I bet the kids love it.

Christian Stewart 08 Feb 06

Walk into a restaurant, see flags on the tables, walk out.

(From a Restaurant owner)

Noel Jackson 08 Feb 06

Everywhere in Japan there is a buzzer system on the table. It’s wonderful. And, you don’t have to tip in Japan!

shane 08 Feb 06

I guess you guys don’t have “Panchos Mexican Buffet” food chain? Their whole campaign is “Raise the Flag, Raise the Flag”…

Rahul 08 Feb 06

Do you really need flags? Maybe you should just eat at places that have good service and notice you. If there’s no one paying attention to you, then they obviously don’t want your service. So leave. I could make a user interface analogy here, but I’m not really that much of a geek. Really.

Jin 08 Feb 06

Many of the Korean restaurant here in Vancouver, BC have a buzzer built onto the table.

Whenever you need something but waiter/waitress not available near you, you buzz it and they will notice a table # on their buzzer notification screen.

It can be annoying to servers but it seems to get their attention when restaurant is busy. Not sure if this can be applied to other types of restaurants…

David E. 08 Feb 06

I grew up going to Poncho’s, a cafateria-style tex-mex restaurant on Fort Worth Texas. They had a Mexican flag on a pole that you raised by pulling the string on the flagpole. The waiter would lower it when he came to your table. With the scaled-back waitstaff, it’s even more practical. Still, you feel like a kid in first grade raising your hand for permission to go to the potty. Somehow, I don’t want it to be everybody’s business that I want more iced tea.

benny 08 Feb 06

I ate at a Samba Grill once in SLC, Brazilian, where they did the little disc with green and red sides. If you leave it green they will constantly keep bringing you stuff.

Drew Pickard 08 Feb 06

Sadly, I don’t think the ‘system’ is to blame so much as waiters seem to rarely take any pride in their work.
I realize it’s waiting tables, but it is a job …

What really irks me is when I get sub-par service at an expensive restaurant.

Matt Baron 08 Feb 06

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. - New Orleans, LA

Dave 08 Feb 06

At The Mews in Narragansett, RI, each table has a flip-sign that says “Need Beer” or “Got Beer.”

Andrew Hollister 08 Feb 06

i like the idea of Fogo De Chao with their red and green disc… Red stop bringing me food, green tells them to keep it coming.

I think retail stores need the same system; a simple button to wear on your lapel; Red means leave me the hell alone, i’m just looking. Green would let a sales associate that you need some help.

Hopefully Best Buy or Target or anyone is reading this blog and wil institute my system in their store.

Dcassady 08 Feb 06

There used to be a Casa Bonita in Little Rock Arkansas (years and years ago.. in the late 70s and early 80s). It’s now called Casa Viva.

They still use the flag system, and it works well. My kids beg to eat there every time we visit family.

Anonymous Coward 08 Feb 06

Yuks Yuks does this

Paul G 08 Feb 06

On a recent visit to Taiwan, we went to a nice vegetarian restaurant. On each table, there was an indescrete wireless device made of clear and white plastic.

On the device were about 5 buttons, each with Chinese and English translations. Some of the choices were things like, “more water,” “check please,” “ready to order.”

Ben 08 Feb 06

I read this today and was astonished when I went to dinner tonight and had a service bell on my table. It is exactly like the previous comment describes it. I was hoping to be the first to write about it, but oh well….

Eric Wagner 08 Feb 06

with all the comments centered around this place does this or that place that, why wait for the restaurants you frequent to come around to this. just bring some sort of discreet, yet visible system to communicate a binary in-want-of value. then, kindly explain to your server that life is too short and this subtle non-verbal communication mechanism is inefficient time- and effort-wise and that you’d just rather avoid the hassle.

likewise, I would really prefer if restaurants had some sort of symbology that would communicate it’s basic working algorithm: do I come to the bar, or does someone come to me? is food served? credit cards taken? tabs extended? smoking? child-friendly? but this would require all the restaurant owners to get their collective act together. the beauty of bringing your own server signal is that it’s DIY. it would be nice if we standardized on a particular symbol, but not strictly necessary in my opinion.

Ali 08 Feb 06

At Yo Sushi (UK, Dubai and probably other places) each table (or place at the bar) has a little pole with a little light at the top. When you poke the button it lights up and some annoying /embaressing sound is played.

On an unrelated note, they also have this motorised drinks “robot” that goes around the restaurant following a track on the floor. Which is pretty odd in it’s own right, but that robot swears at people that block it :)

RJB 08 Feb 06

Yo Sushi… Wagamama… Satsuma…. How I miss the UK

Ed 09 Feb 06

Japan is GREAT. Little buttons at each table. Push, and someone comes in 10 seconds!

Adam 09 Feb 06

So you’d prefer to throw away all the nuances and possibilities for human to human interaction and reduce it to binary? Sounds like a rude system to me.

Kim Greenlee 09 Feb 06

There are things that you can do to get a server�s attention if there are no restaurant provided props. Servers walk a fine line between being attentive and not being intrusive. I try to give them clues to let them know what I need. For example, when I�m ready to order I lay my menu down in front of me, when my drink needs a refill I place the empty or near empty glass on the edge of the table near the busy aisle, when I need things cleared I put them on the edge of the table on the aisle, when I�m finished and ready for the check I push my plate forward and lay my napkin on the table. I try to be friendly and courteous to the server so that they will want to spend more time with me. Usually the hints and a pleasant disposition result in great service. Sometimes the wait staff isn�t very good and my techniques don�t work, that�s when the tip meter starts going down.

RyanA 09 Feb 06

I guess it depends on the type of ‘Restaurant’ you’re going to.

Going to a cheap steakhouse? Don’t expect too much. Going to Le Restaurant Fran�ais? Expect to be stared at if you are not familiar with the common nuances.

I think having some ‘standard’ of flagging down waiters kind of dehumanises the whole experience. It’s like requesting a standard of courting so that you can get your date home and into your bed without having to experience any embarrassment.

If you want efficiency then what the heck are you doing at a restaurant, anyway? Get an intravenous drip and you’ll never have to leave your desk!

If you’ve spent 10 minutes in a restaurant waiting to leave you’re probably just shy, it’s not the fault of the wait staff. You could just stand up and prepare to leave, that usually ‘signals’ to the waiters that you’re ready for the bill :)

Paul Watson 09 Feb 06

I suggest an international signalling system using the common napkin. Perusal of John Cleese skits will supply us with a full range of come-hither and don’t-bother motions suitable for practical yet still stylish dining.

Lars Plougmann 09 Feb 06

I have been to a couple of sushi restaurants in London where you can switch on an orange light above the table when you need service.

A related experience in London was at an indian restaurant where they used wifi terminals to take our order. We had a long discussion with the waiter about their specials, so long in fact that the appetizers we had ordered at the beginning of our conversation arrived without the waiter taking our order ever leaving our table. It seemed like magic but it was just clever technology.

Jocke 09 Feb 06

Have to agree with the “japan is great”-comment. Even were the push button thing is not implemented the service is often very good. Also when you pay, you mostly just take your receipt to the door, no waiting and waving waiting waving - “yeah, we wanna pay”.

Helga 09 Feb 06

Real men have a knack of catching a waiters attention. Women also find this ability incredibly sexy.

Charlie O'Donnell 09 Feb 06

I usually just pick up my water glass, tap it gently twice and hurl it as hard as I can at a wall. That usually seems to do the trick.

JClark 09 Feb 06

Personally, I’d love to see a system like this for exactly the opposite reason, as a few posters have alluded to. Getting service is rarely a problem in my experience, it’s getting them to leave me alone when I don’t need anything that’s difficult.

The same goes for shopping. I’ve worked retail, and I know that the retail mantra is “the cutomer always needs help”, but I’m that customer who doesn’t want any help. Ever. In fact, all of these people throwing themselves at me asking what I’m looking for make the experience much less pleasant for me. If I’m standing at a register or a help counter or something, that’s completely different, but if I’m browsing I’d rather be left to browse.

And if you count ordering food or asking a sales person for help as “human interaction”, you’re either a very lonely person, or you don’t understand the service industry very well.

Noah Winecoff 09 Feb 06

Pancho’s *gag*…last time I ate there was when I was 12. Althought their sopapias aren’t bad.

Peter Cooper 09 Feb 06

Yeah, all this waiting around peeves me too. For some reason getting served isn’t the problem.. it’s getting the bill at the end! As soon as I’ve finished, I want the bill. I guess some customers see that as rude though.

The other problem is you don’t get the same waiter all the time so feel less inclined to tip as you don’t know who’s getting it. I want to tip a particular person, not the person who gets to my table first.

Ian Schuler 09 Feb 06

I once worked at a restaurant that tried a card system. Four laminated 5.5 x 8.5 cards hung by two binder rings from a little plastic stand on the end of the table. The front of the first card and back of the last card showed the restaurant logo. This was the setting when no one was at the table. Otherwise, the cards could be flipped to red (need attention), blue (all is well) or green (ready for the check). As was mentioned previously about another restaurant, any employee—from busboy to manager—was required to stop at a table with a red flag.

The card system didn’t replace interaction with the customer; you couldn’t assume that everyone would use it, but it was a useful tool. It was also great for communication between staff. When the greeter sat a new table, she turned the card to red so that the waiter could easily see the new table on his next pass. When the waiter dropped off the check, he changed the card to green (if the diners hadn’t) so that the busboys would know that that table would need cleaned soon.

Eventually they got rid of the cards. This was possibly because the managers thought they were tacky; possibly because the waiters complained about what a pain they were to clean; but probably because the owner didn’t want to pay for new cardsets when the old ones fell apart.

ae 09 Feb 06

My uncle does this:

places a $100 bill on the table
first time the waitress ignores him, takes it away and replaces it with a $50. Next time, replaces it with a $20. Usually by the time it’s down to $1 they’ve caught on.

kirkaracha 09 Feb 06

I once built a fire in the ashtray after being neglected by the wait staff. Worked like a charm.

Thomas Chapin 09 Feb 06

I have long thought that the current service model was flawed.

I have eaten at hundreds of restaurants and I almost always only ever get “average” service, even though I always tip around 20% and am always polite and curteous.

Everyone says, “well, just go to a good restaurant and you will get good service”. Well, I’ve got a news flash for ya: I don’t have $50 to drop on dinner.

Here’s another news flash for you: I’m not at the restaurant to make friends. Sure, there’s people out there who chat it up with the waitstaff, but everyone knows those conversations are superficial and the waitstaff only participate in them to bolster their tips.

Here’s what I want:

1. A restaurant that I can go to that has a classy environment (not gimmicky with trains running around or something) with comfortable seating at a clean table. Maybe some nice background music happening.

2. An interactive touch-screen menu at my table with pictures and descriptions of *EVERY* item. No. Not just the feature items. I want to see what any item looks like before I order it.

3. A credit card slot on the screen at my table so that I can pay instantly and securely. I hate waiting for 5-10 minutes after I have finished eating for the server to come around and deliver my check. Then I pull out my credit card and have to wait another 5 minutes for the server to get around to processing it. In the mean time, my credit card is in the hands of someone I don’t even know who could be writing down the number for their own use (credit card fraud, anyone?).

4. The screen should have a status indicator for the meal, as well as an expected wait time. If they have 50 steaks lined up to be cooked and I’m number 49, then I should know that I’m going to be waiting an hour for that item if I choose it.

5. A drink order button (choose what kind of drink you want). And a drink refill button.

6. Restaurant should *NOT* require tips. They should merely pay their servers an hourly fee (which is factored in to the cost of your meal). If the server does not perform to spec, they are fired. What is so wrong with this concept???

Wake up people. This is the new generation.

I shouldn’t be subjected to crappy food just because I want good and efficient service (can anyone say Panchos?).

Implementation shouldn’t be gimmicky or rude, like flags, bells, or trains.

It should be educated, smooth, and drive business.

The ESP system mentioned earlier is the closest to this that I’ve ever seen. I wish more businesses would adopt it. I would definitely eat out more.

Chris 09 Feb 06

Thomas - I think if I were going to be a waiter I wouldn’t want to work at the place you describe simply because tips allow you to have a self employed mentality and give you a chance to actually make an impact in your salary if you do a good job and have a good attitude.

Thomas Chapin 09 Feb 06

I disagree, Chris.

I think that this solution would drastically reduce the server’s workload, making their job easier. All they would have to do would be carry food and drinks as needed. None of this tipping nonsense.

I equate this to the self-serve kiosks at wal-mart. They took time before people accepted them, and a lot of people really hated them for a long time. But after a while, people have started accepting them more and more and they use them whenever they have a few items and just need to purchase them really fast and run out the door. Technology is very useful in the proper application.

Sure, I still go through the normal lines when I have a lot of groceries. The cashier tallies everything up and bags them for me, saving me a lot of work.

I go through the the cashier line because it saves me time and effort. Not because I want the “human interaction”, as I rarely talk to cashiers. And if I do, their conversations are usually superficial, so it’s not even worth the bother.

Which brings me to my next point: Do you tip your cashier?

No. Nobody tips cashiers. They get paid to do their job. If they don’t do it, they get fired. And if they are above their job as a cashier and consider it to be too menial, they can go get a job somewhere else.

Why aren’t servers treated the same way? What makes them so special?

Peter Cooper 10 Feb 06

I actually tried to tip a cashier once at Ralphs, and they totally wouldn’t take it.

Tim Almond 10 Feb 06


I completely agree with you.

The conversations on this blog are mostly about “experience”, like the office stores comment about sterile interiors.

You could reduce the whole restaurant experience to electronic table menus, waiter lights and credit card slots. Why not just buy a TV dinner and cook it at home, saving travelling time, and the restaurant overheads? The sort of places that would opt for introducing more “process”, are also those that buy in food and microwave it for you anyway.

The best pubs I know in the UK keep it simple - food, service and atmosphere. They don’t need gimmicks to keep busy.

John 10 Feb 06

Wake up people. This is the new generation.

While we’re at it, why don’t we:

1) Introduce soundproof booths, so you can’t hear anyone else in the restaurant.

2) Supply all patrons with dark sunglasses, so everyone can comfortably avoid eye contact.

3) Replace all waitstaff with those vacuum shoots. Even better - matter transporters. Replace all matter transporter technicians with robots. Replace all robot repairmen with nano-bots. Replace all nanotechnology scientists with (replicant) swimsuit models.

Seriously man, part of going to any restaurant, whether you like it or not, is human interaction. If reducing contact with a waiter is the natural progression of restaurant culture for you - why not follow it to its logical conclusion and just get take-out?

John 10 Feb 06

That was for you, Thomas. ;)

chutes 10 Feb 06

“chutes,” not “shoots.”

another anonymous coward 10 Feb 06

they refilled our water whenever it was near or below half.
must have come by like 5 times. great service.

See, this kind of “service” drives me crazy sometimes. I absolutely hate having my conversation constantly interrupted so someone can give me water I don’t need. It’s especially irksome when I’m trying to have my tea cooled down and they just come along and pour more hot liquid into my cup.

That’s where some kind of flagging system would be handy — so servers can know when they should stay away, not just when they should come over.

shoots 10 Feb 06

I’d love to say that was intentional

Hugo 13 Feb 06

I believe some restaurants have a button that beeps a waiter/waitress. The problem that the restaurants have found is that this opens the way for people to page the waiter and waitress more frequently than when they have to have human-to-human communication.

So, if a waiter is extremely busy and can’t answer the call immediately, (since we are all used to automatic feedback), the service is actually perceived to be worse.

Anonymous 13 Feb 06

get a life…

Eric Reiss 16 Feb 06

The restaurant Peder Oxe in Copenhagen, Denmark ( has a little paging lightbulb mounted on a brass box above the table lamp. This system has been in use for over 30 years.

I found a picture of one of these lamps on Google: esmrmb_2004_copenhagen


David Munn 18 Feb 06

How about something from a waitstaff’s point of view? Personally I work in the industry and experience the job from many angles, kitchen, management and service.

Yes, at times service can be lacking. It’s a VERY fine line between being a prompt server and being over the top. If a group of guests are sitting there talking between each other after they have finished there meals and no not want deserts…I won’t disterb them with the bill until they request it (UNLESS….the night is busy and the table is needed to be turned over) - some people see this as slack service…others prefer it. It’s the little things like that, that annoy some people.

As far as a flagging system, sure it may work in some concepts…but overall it should never happen - if a wait staff can’t see an empty drink on a table then they should be there.

The other thing was the wireless system at the table, pretty much allowing you to pick what you want without the waitress taking the other: Id will never go mainstream…They are there to make money, me being at your table when you are placing the order allows me to upless and use suggestive selling = more money for the business and makes my check average look a lot better. Yes, we are there to please the guest - but we are also there to make as much money as possible

Kevin Smith 21 Feb 06

Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. the shrimp sucks, but the ribs are AWESOME.

Run Forrest Run.

Randy Lau 01 Mar 06

I run a business in California that sells a wireless signaling system called WaiterBell which is similar to the ones previously mentioned. It is a simpler version of the ESP System with only two parts, the button on the table and the receiver.

The button on the table itself does not make a sound when pressed, and the receiver that displays the table number has a volume control.

Out of all its benefits, I see the system mainly as a service safety net for the staff, so that a customer is not accidentally neglected. It may save the customer from spreading negative word-of-mouth about the restaurant.

I started the business this year, and have sold the system to a couple of restaurants in California so far. Everyone’s comments to this post have been very helpful to me, thank you.

I welcome any additional feedback, suggestions, or questions at, thanks again.

JERRY 24 Sep 06

PATENT #5,594,409