Here's potentially huge news from the tech nerds at Apple: the company has filed a patent application for their very own reservation and ordering system. As reported by Patently Apple, the all-encompassing restaurant system would put reservation-making, wait list management, and ordering right into customers' iPhone-wielding hands. And that's not all:
The more customers participate, the more accurate the system can be. The wait times change based on what seated customers order. The system — which knows the average amount of time a customer spends at the table eating specific dishes — can alert waiting customers when their table is ready. Once at the table, the customer can use the Apple system to generate menu recommendations based on things like allergies or preferences and then order from their mobile device. So long, waiters.
[Photo: US Patent & Trademark Office]
Another aspect of the system would seem to one-up the capabilities of services like OpenTable, which offer online reservations on mobile phones. Apple plans to offer customers the ability to search restaurant not only based on available reservations, but based on how long the wait list is. A customer can be given a list of restaurants that will have a table available by the time they get there or a list of similar restaurants in the event that no tables are available. From the patent application:
"In one embodiment, a system is described that is capable of providing recommendations for restaurants in response to a search query for a particular restaurant type, cuisine, ethnicity, price point, rating, or a combination of a few of these factors. The recommendations provided to the customer can be based on the wait time for the next available table at the restaurant. For example, the recommendations can contain only restaurants with a table available within a predetermined period of time. As another example, the recommendations can contain only restaurants capable of providing the customer with a table within a period of time after the customer arrives at the restaurant. These examples can take into consideration the wait list at the restaurants and the distance between the customer and the restaurant when recommending restaurants. In another embodiment, a customer can request to eat at a specified restaurant."
Tablet and touchscreen technology in restaurants is nothing new. But in Apple's design, the tablets don't belong to the restaurant; they belong to the customer. It's impossible to predict what the consequences would be for restaurants. Certainly customers ordering haphazardly throughout a meal could cause problems in the kitchen. And the system seems like it would require significantly fewer front of house staff members. Of course, it's possible that the patent-pending system will never come to life, so servers you're safe for another day. Below, the full patent application:
· SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR PROCESSING ORDERS AND RESERVATIONS USING AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE [US Patent & Trademark Office]
· Apple Invents Restaurant Ordering & Reservation System [Patently Apple]
· All Technology Coverage on Eater [-E-]