The Ziosk "revolutionizes the dining experience with interactive promotions and next generation pay-on demand." So saith their website. So, essentially, if I don't provide the "next generation" with a distraction that eliminates the need for conversation, I can rely on Olive Garden to do so? Rather than ask my server to attend to the needs of our table, by eyeballing our water glasses or making sure we have enough of those addictive breadsticks, we're supposed to tell a machine that we need something. So, I should tip the Ziosk then?
Who decided that this would be a good idea?
Generally speaking, when you go out for a meal, you are doing so for one of several reasons. Firstly, you may have been given a respite from the responsibility of providing said nourishment; thus, you are also relieved from the food preparation, maintaining the needs of the eaters, and the clean-up. Or you might be celebrating a special occasion and want to share that with others. Perhaps you just want to gaze longingly into the eyes of your beloved, over a shared slice of Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake, with Frank Sinatra crooning in the background. It's an escape. A vacation from all the distractions of the daily grind. The last thing you want is another electronic device that must be "managed" in order to produce your desired outcome. Or one that "revolutionizes the dining experience" by interrupting the opportunity for human interaction--gasp--with trivia games. Whoopee pickle.
It's bad enough that there are so few dining establishments out there, be they fast food or "good food served fast", that are television-free. Of course, if you go to a sports bar with the intention of watching Florida annihilate Ole Miss in the Swamp, multiple giant screens in every nook and cranny of the place are expected. That's what you go there for--to watch the game. Or games. I totally get that. Been there, done that, bought the hot wings. But now, we have this lovely addition of a tablet sitting atop our dining table. And the server has abdicated the role for which they were hired-- to attend to their customers--by relying upon some buzz or beep to tell them that another Coke with no ice is needed at Table 10 or Table 46 wants another slice of Tiramisu? What's next--a portable water station at each booth for convenient self-service? Dude, I can stay home and do that.
That's not dining out. That's drive-thru service with a linen napkin. I can pull up to the Golden Arches menu-tron, tell the person with the Madonna Mic what I'd like to eat, confirm my order and determine how much it will cost me. I proceed to the window, pay my debt, and get my food. And, I don't even have to get out of my car--or tip the server. Last Saturday evening, we walked into Red Robin, a restaurant chain who has apparently drunk the Ziosk Kool-Aid, to celebrate Mini-Hooper's birthday. Our server took our drink and food orders, and then disappeared. Some other kind soul brought out our food. Because we didn't use the Ziosk to let her know that we needed more water, we nearly passed out from dehydration. Okay, that's an exaggeration. She only checked on us once--when she told us how to pay the bill on our handy-dandy Ziosk. Then, when this time-saving device didn't work--twice--she harrumphedly took our card and processed it "the old-fashioned way". "Harrumphedly" is my word of the day. Use it in a sentence. It's fun.
Because she rarely showed her face at our booth and she barely acknowledged the fact that I had a birthday meal coupon for Mr. Double Digits, there was no birthday hoopla. No free hot fudge sundae. Nada. Perhaps, if we had told the Ziosk about the occasion for celebration, it would have baked us a cake. Or sang "Happy Birthday to You". I will grant you that this might also be a flat-out customer service issue. However, her lack of "service with a smile"--or service, at all--was exacerbated by the presence of that nifty little tablet.
I sincerely hope that this Ziosk thing will not become standard at our favorite local eateries. Thus far, it seems to be a giant, conglomerate chain dining establishment kind of thing. Call me old-fashioned, I don't mind it a bit; but, I like being treated like a human being. One with whom you can converse. One whose presence in a given place is something more than a beep or buzz--it is valued. So, to the fabulous folks at Tulum, Asia Garden, and Carriage House Cafe, please continue to treat your customers as though you welcome their presence and patronage, with refills of that yummy Fruit Tea and bottomless pails of nacho chips. And, we pledge to be patient, appreciative, and loyal. Especially on Sundays.
Farewell to the Garden and the Robin. It was nice knowing you. This time, it's not me, it's you. There's not room enough for all of us at the table anymore.