Will Technology Replace the Need For Servers in Restaurants?

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Will we soon be served by robots when we go to restaurants?  

After a move by big-name restaurant chains like Panera, Chili’s, and Applebee’s to implement interactive tablets that display menus and allow patrons to order and pay without any human interaction, many people have begun talking about employment in the restaurant industry.  Many now fear a significant decrease in wages for servers (including a possible elimination of the notion of tipping), as well as the ultimate replacement of employees by automated systems. 

While this fear is legitimate, here are a couple of reasons why we don’t think you should be saying goodbye to your favorite server too soon.  

Reason #1: Technology provides a way for restaurants to decrease costs without compromising the quality of food and services

By digitizing menus, you get rid of the need to print out menus every time a particular item is no longer available or every time you change prices.  Also, digital logbooks (like those provided by Squadle), provide a singular device to replace infinite number of logbooks that need to be purchased and saved throughout a restaurant’s career.  Cutting costs through these steps will allow for employee’s salaries to experience little change.  There are, of course, alternative options for cutting costs.  One is to under staff or cut worker’s hours to avoid paying health insurance.  With fewer workers, however, the amount of customer service would significantly drop along with the server’s potential tips from no mistake of their own due to the likely increase in mistakes and decrease in efficiency.  With workers overextended, the atmosphere and experience a restaurant provides is compromised.  Another route would be to produce food in bulk (allowing for tons of mistakes) or in cheap ways like microwaves.  We guess you could also save money by not purchasing extra ingredients needed for flavor.  While all of these options are indeed ways in which your restaurant could save money, we think that by going digital you preserve the customer’s experience as well as saving yourself money.  

Reason #2: Going digital goes hand in hand with going green

Restaurants “going green” and becoming eco-friendly is a trend in the industry none of us can ignore.  Diner’s now take into consideration how environmentally aware a business is before making a choice about where to eat.  Using technology in your restaurant can cut down on the amount of both paper and food waste you produce.  From both a marketing and sustainability standpoint, it’s a win-win.  

What does all of this mean for employees in the industry?  Well, it’s undeniable that their role will change in the coming years.  However, let us tell you why this change is not necessarily bad for the employee or the diner.

Reason #3: Technology makes for a better customer experience, and experience is paramount to millennials

A new study from advertising company BBDO reports that millennials revealed that they prioritize the atmosphere of a restaurant when choosing a place to eat. A huge part of the atmosphere of a restaurant is based on the personal interactions with the server.  

Technology helps put the chores on auto-pilot and let’s everyone focus on the customer experience. With better technology in restaurants, workers are freed up to pay attention to the customer again. Servers can spend more time in the front of the house. This means they are refilling drinks, delivering food, and interacting with customers. Tips may even increase due to the better dining experience.  No longer will managers have to spend time helping servers figuring out how to split the bill, recording the temperature of a refrigerator five times a day, or filling out hundreds of pages in a logbook every week.

While yes, technology will have an increased role in restaurants, it ultimately will provide a way for restaurants to cut down costs, become more eco-friendly, and enhance the dining experience.  If that doesn’t convince you, let’s remember certain things only humans can do, like verify the age of a diner attempting to purchase alcoholic beverages.  

We think technology can only serve as aid to both employees and managers in restaurants.  What do you think? Is the power of human interaction enough to prevent robots from taking over employees of restaurants? Let us know in the comments.