There’s a story circulating about a restaurant called Charlie’s Kitchen in Cambridge, Mass., which is located right on Harvard Square.
On the surface, Charlie’s is just another casual restaurant—chicken wings, chili, sliders, burgers of all sorts, three bars and a beer garden. They’re making news because they’re one of the first eateries to allow (actually, encourage) customers to communicate with servers by sending them a text message. A sign on the wall next to a booth proclaims, “Can’t find your server, just text!”
Charlie’s subscribes to a system called Text My Food, which promises “instant service, even when your server is out of view or at another table.” The customer’s text is transmitted to a message station in the back, where the servers pick it up. Text My Food promises that restaurants will increase their check average as customers order more drinks, appetizers and desserts. They also dangle the tantalizing promise of “tapping into the medium of the millennial generation.”
This is sobering stuff, particularly if you’re not a millennial and it takes you 20 minutes to send a simple text message. Even worse, what if you have a cell phone without data compatibility? Or no cell phone at all? Worst of all, what if you’re one of those well-mannered individuals who doesn’t bring your cell phone into restaurants, out of a concern for what used to be known as “politeness”? Until last week, folks using cell phones in restaurants were pariahs; now, they’re on the cutting edge of civilization.
What if you’re even more outdated and bizarre than that, and prefer having a conversation with an actual person rather than communicating with that person electronically?
Speaking as a former restaurant manager, I’m not thrilled with the idea of having servers clustered around a message station for a large portion of their shift. Here’s a modest proposal: Get the servers out of the back and onto the floor, where they can spend more time watching their customers. Then, you won’t need to send them a text message.