Published in El Pais, May 21st 2019.
A few years ago, I went to a sushi restaurant with a friend. I love sushi, so I was really looking forward to this dinner but when I got there I was surprised with how the restaurant handled orders. Every table was given their own iPad that had the menu complete with pictures of each object. To place an order simply click on the items you want and hit the call server button. The server then comes and confirms the order and brings you your food when your ready.
The experience was unique and rather enjoyable, so I was not surprised to hear that more and more restraunts are looking at this approach to handle a shortage of staff in the serving industry. Servers can now spend less time at each table which allows management to spread them out amongst more tables. It also takes out all the guess work of which tables need your immediate attention. Technology is not exclusive to the dining room either as management software is being used to help kitchen staff be more productive with tracking prep work and orders that need to go out, allowing for them to be stretched out too.
Of course, restaurant owners need to be careful with this approach. Aside from potential backlash that sometimes goes with automation there are certain aspects of eating out at a restaurant that machines simply cannot replace. For a low end or even middle range restraunts ordering from a tablet might be acceptable but for fine dining there is no substitution for a real server as they must be able to answer any question you may have about the food or wine and offer recommendations, especially for the money you are paying.
It is inevitable that automation will slowly start to take over jobs, however the sectors that it is popping up in is surprising me. Businesses are always looking to save money on labour, so we may find many jobs we thought were safe being taken over by the machine in due time. It will be interesting/scary to see how this plays out.