Is this the end of waiters?
More restaurants are encouraging diners to order by app or kiosk, hoping to cut costs and increase traffic.
BJ's chief executive Gregory Trojan believes the traditional flurry of tasks handled by waiters distracts them from their more important job: being hospitable.
The app, he says in an interview, aims not to reduce staff or turn servers into robots who just transport food from the kitchen to the table but to relieve them of certain duties so they can be more attentive to customers.
The larger problem Trojan hopes the app will address is speed. In traditional full-service restaurants, all that service takes time, which is bad during peak hours when turning over tables means sales. He says that by allowing customers to take care of ordering and payment themselves, the average one-hour meal is cut down to about 35 minutes.
To further encourage time-strapped diners to order ahead, BJ's puts them on a wait list to be seated once their mobile order comes in, rather than when they arrive at the restaurant.
By quickening service, Trojan also hopes to better compete with fast casual restaurants, which in recent years have lured many customers away from full-service with quality food served quickly, at lower prices. BJ's same-store sales decreased 1.1 percent last year.
"We have seen too many restaurant companies eliminate the ability to build sales by trying to save on labor by cutting their sales force, reducing the number of hosts at the front desk, and minimizing kitchen staff," said CFO Gregory Levin during an earnings call in May. "Therefore, we must and we will hold our line in labor so that we continue to provide great service to our guest and not make rash labor decisions that could tarnish our brand going forward."
While the app reduces the amount of running around servers have to do, during testing in Southern California, BJ's found that customers who ordered ahead actually tipped more -- although it's worth noting that the app automatically sets the gratuity to 18 percent, which can be adjusted up or down. It's also worth pointing out that as of now, you can't split a check if you pay by app.
BJ's is just the latest restaurant to remove waiters from the ordering process. Panera (PNRA), in an effort to reduce errors that occur during ordering, is trying a new store format in which customers can order by kiosk or smartphone and have their food brought to their table. McDonald's (MCD) has also been experimenting with kiosks overseas.
Does 'everything' have to be automated? Personally, I enjoy the whole experience of being seated, handed a menu, asking the waiter questions about the menu, relaxing and taking my time ordering and waiting for my food while I sip a drink and relax.
This whole 'app' thing is going out of control. Why do we have to go overboard on everything we do in this country?
Restaurants going the way of the gas station. Used to be someone would fill your tank, wash your windshield, fill your tires with air and give you a big smile.
Now, its 'swipe your card, pump your own gas and get out of the way for the next car'.
We are losing our culture to data processing.
All the strip club addicts are gonna be surprised in the future when they order a lap dance and hear the buzz of a robot headed toward their chair and then feel the nuts and bolts moving and grooving! in thier lap!!!!
I do understand that wait staff should get a fair wage, but not $ 15 a hour and certainly not fast food
places. Everything will go up to cover the increase and no one is going to pay more for
a hamburger that was a $ 1 and now is $ 5. Automated services will certainly cut out costs and people will not have jobs and then what? Don't these people get it. Higher wages equal higher
prices and you still in up in the same boat as you were before or even worse.
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Do it once a year. This allows the best-performing asset classes to take off and run.
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