Restaurant Serves Customers Jetson-Style

Discussion
Aug 30, 2007

By George Anderson

Good wait help is, it seems, hard to find in Germany. So hard, in fact, that a dining entrepreneur has developed a restaurant where there are no waiters or waitresses.

At ‘s Baggers in Nuremberg, patrons place orders on touch screens at their table and then have meals delivered to them via a special metal rail track system from the kitchen directly above. Customers are kept apprised of the progress of their meal via the touch screen so they know when to expect food and drinks.

's Baggers, Nurembery

According to the company’s website, the ‘s Baggers philosophy holds that “staff only execute those tasks that are directly of benefit to our guests… Our motto is: The most efficient way to do something is, in fact, not to do it at all!”

Not doing it at all adds up to some serious savings, according to Michael Mack, the founder of ‘s Baggers. He told Der Spiegel, “Billions of euros in personnel costs could be saved using this system. We don’t need service at the table.”

While the novelty of the ordering and track system attracts visitors to the restaurant, not all are sold on the concept. According to Der Spiegel, a visitor to the German internet forum Restaurant-Kritik.de complained, “We prefer a nice friendly waiter to this cold stainless steel system you can’t talk to.”

Discussion
Question: Are consumers ready to do more themselves in shopping environments?
Do you see a future for fully automated do-it-yourself restaurants and stores
in the U.S.?

[Author’s Note] For those wondering about the menu, this
from the restaurant’s website: “Our chef uses only fresh, high-quality ingredients,
many of which are organic produce, directly from the local region. Everything
is freshly prepared and once a week a new menu is created. For this reason
we ask for your appreciation should a dish on the menu unexpectedly run out.”

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12 Comments on "Restaurant Serves Customers Jetson-Style"


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Edward Herrera
Guest
Edward Herrera
14 years 8 months ago

There are many times I would love to just get up and refill my own soda or get my bill. As long as customers could press a button and there would be quick, effective assistance, many people would prefer to dine undisturbed.

We have all had the bad server experience. I agree we do more and more on our own, but retailers, restaurants, and businesses need to continually work on getting better at self serve.

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

“It’s not wrong — it’s just different.”

That’s my plebeian way of parroting Phillip Crosby (the “Zero Defects” TQM guy) when he talked about both a Bic pen and a Mont Blanc being “quality” instruments. His point, of course, is that “quality” means meeting specifications. The Bic and the Mont Blanc simply have different specifications.

Our customer experiences are the same. Different experiences have different specifications. Sometimes even different people have different specifications for the same experience. The concepts that succeed are ones that deliver a markedly different and better way of meeting someone’s expectations for an experience. That’s why self-serve and drive-thru and vending work. This method (specification) for delivering dining will be successful if it is truly a quality experience — if it meets “specifications”.

Robert Straub
Guest
Robert Straub
14 years 8 months ago

I worked in the German foodservice industry once upon a time and I knew professional waiters whose salaries were higher than their chefs’ and had 5 weeks of paid vacation a year.

I doubt the computers have it so good.

Lee Peterson
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Depends on the level of expectation. On a recent visit to an excellent spa in Baja, a server asked me, “Did everything meet your expectations?” . . . I can’t get over how spot-on that question was in so many ways.

So, with that context in mind, if you visit a quick serve restaurant or a traditional grocer, with the poor level of service that exists in those environments, you’re undoubtedly better off doing it yourself. And consumers knows this all too well so, there’s a high chance of success in those areas.

But for other occasions. . . a night out with your favorite partner, a long flight or, yes, a great spa . . . it’d be disastrous.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
14 years 8 months ago

Anyone here remember Horn & Hardart’s Automat in New York? I used to love it when I was a kid and I’d love for someone to try it again.

‘s Baggers sounds great. The business is about selling the sizzle – in this case, automation or technology. But I’m not so sure it will replace good old fashioned customer service.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

We do our own banking; we check ourselves in & out of hotels; we check in for flights, select our own seats, print our own boarding passes; we check ourselves out at retail etc, etc!

We already do our ordering from our cars at fast food joints; why not at a better restaurant? There will always be a need for service but I think the ‘s Bagger’s concept will work here AS LONG AS there are no errors, the food is cooked and delivered as ordered and you can get a second drink or ketchup for your fries quickly!

Let’s face it – service jobs are hard to fill and any concept that delivers the same end result with less labor has a chance to succeed.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 8 months ago

Ambiance of a restaurant usually includes friendly personnel. The novelty of ‘s Baggers may soon fade unless they find a way to meet customers’ multiple requests and handle checkout procedures very quickly. Careful analysis of customer feedback will be essential to streamline what works and what doesn’t.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 8 months ago

At the risk of NOT being ponderously list-oriented (you know who you are, fellow contributors), please allow me to re-introduce the idea of the Automat. Cruise the wall of little glass doors, plunk in your money, et voila!, the chosen doors open and you grab your grub. Soup to nuts. Gone now, but sorely missed by those who prefer not to deal with wait help (or tipping).

Is this a dumb idea? Seriously, there have been restaurants in the past that delivered your food via little model trains on tracks. How is this different?

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Most of the comments have not focused on the use of customer touch screens for ordering. This is a very low-cost use of mature technology with a high return on investment. Every fast food restaurant could add touch screen ordering (and credit/debit card payments) with almost no delay or fuss. The labor saved would be critical, because fast food restaurants have the highest staff turnover in retailing. Why hasn’t touch screen technology for customers been widely adopted in the fast food business? It seems as natural as ATMs for banks.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
14 years 8 months ago

To Len Lewis’ reference to his Horn & Hardart’s experience, I too ate at H&D but in Philadelphia. We’d put coins in a slot, lift a window-door and remove our selected item. There was no service at the table, just fun in the selection and self-work process. Is ‘s Baggers deja vu?

As I reflect on past days, I also remember the fun in running to the service grocery store for items so Mom could fix dinner and then making fudge later; and full-service gasoline stations; and all of things where people mutually shared day-to-day experiences, face-to-face. But ‘nough of this impossible to reconstruct nostalgia.

As for the future of fully automated do-it-yourself restaurants in the U.S., they will probably come on stream. But without service at the gregarious, communal-like table, I’ll wager the romance of eating will diminish and be focused on something else.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 8 months ago

As when we discuss this with the store experience, the success of this is likely going to be based on having it as an option when this kind of experience suits one’s mood. Sometimes we want social interaction and sometimes we want to get our stuff and move on! And some demographics will love it while others will find it quite uncomfortable…it’s all about choice.

What I really like about it is the fresh ingredients and focus on organic to mitigate any perception of factory line food with questionable origins. Smart!

Ken Smith
Guest
Ken Smith
14 years 8 months ago

This could actually provide a higher level of customer satisfaction in almost every way. How many great dining experiences have been negatively impacted by the human element? Quite a few, I would venture. Customer service, like gastronomy, is an art and those not dedicated to the practice of it would do well to invest in touch screens and conveyor belts.

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