It's the frustrating part of going out for dinner: your waiter seems to have eyes for everyone but you. Trying to zap this annoyance, Fatz Cafe, a restaurant chain based in South Carolina, is deploying wireless technology to let patrons electronically communicate with waiters.
Fatz Cafe has implemented the technology at one restaurant and has signed a contract with ESP Systems to install it across 32 locations. Steve Bruce, president and CEO of the chain, says the technology has helped turn more tables and boost customer service.
"It's still in its infancy, but it addresses our needs more than anything I've seen," says Bruce.
Here's how it works: each server, host and manager wears a watch that is connected wirelessly to a hub at each table. After the host or hostess seats a party, a server greets the diners and hands them a disc that is about 2.5in in diameter. Once the customer pops the disc into the table's wireless hub, he or she can click down on the disc to ping the server's watch and get attention.
From a managerial standpoint, the technology helps supervisors see which tables need help and shift manpower quickly, says Devin Green, CEO of ESP Systems. For example, if a server is dealing with multiple tables on a busy night, the system catalogues the requests in the order they were received. If the waiters are overwhelmed, the requests can be forwarded to a manager, who can help out or redistribute personnel within seconds. Fatz Cafe's waiters have warmed to the idea, Bruce says.
"With servers, you get a little apprehension at first and some scepticism," he says. "But once they saw how much it helped them, they were very accepting of the equipment."