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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Computer Age Cure for Bad Wait Staff

I remember a couple of restaurants when I was growing up in Syracuse, N.Y., that had door bell-like buttons in each booth on the walls where patrons could literally "buzz" their waitresses if they needed another drink or were ready for the check. Most of the places had disconnected these devices, probably because of kids like me that just could not resist constantly pressing the button throughout dinner.

Enter the age of the computer, with microchips, sensors and wireless connectivity.

Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories (MERL) in Cambridge, Mass., has developed iGlassware. The new glasses are equipped with sensors that send a signal to a restaurant's wait station when a glass is nearly empty, prompting the server to stop by and ask if anyone would like another round.

While patrons may like the glassware as a remedy for bad service, restaurant owners may also find it beneficial. Research suggests that customers are 40 percent more likely to order another drink if a waiter asks about a refill before the current drink is finished.

MERL is in the process of trying to find customers who want to install the system.

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