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Restaurant in China Replaces Servers With Phone App

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Diners place orders using the On We Chat messaging app.

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Rather than eliminate tipping — something restaurants in the U.S. are now experimenting with — one Beijing restaurant is getting rid of waiters all together. According to KMOV, Chinese restaurant Renrenxiang has replaced servers with China's most popular messaging app, On We Chat. Diners can use the app to call in their order based on the restaurant's menu. They are then given a number which is called out from a speaker system when their food is ready. Suffice to say, hospitality is included in such transactions.

Owner Liu Zheng hopes to eliminate overhead costs by doing without many of the typical services found inside a conventional eatery. Zheng explains that in following the "technology development trend," there will be four no's inside Renrenxiang: No waiters, no cashier, no merchandising, and no chef. Diners are able to place their order and pay directly from the app, while a team of cooks turn digital orders into meals.

Renrenxiang is one of many Chinese restaurants to do away with waiters, but most aren't using a phone app, opting instead to replace them with copycat robots. In 2012, Haohai Restaraunt in Harbin, China made headlines when it opened as a fully robot staffed eatery, followed by an army of noodle-making robots created to replace cooks. All-robot kitchen staff and drone waiters who fly through the air to deliver your order are becoming more common in the tech-savvy country. While some are using technology to replace humans with a robot counterpart, others like Renrenxiang and Genki Sushi — an automated sushi restaurant in Hong Kong — are finding a way to eliminate the middle-man, sending orders directly from the customer to the kitchen.

This isn't altogether a foreign concept. For the last few years restaurant chains have experimented with tablets on tables as a way to encourage diners to place orders directly from a tablet instead of with a human server. Studies show, though, that diners prefer human interaction to digital ease, even though the system works out well for restaurants. Diners spend about 20 percent more, on average, when ordering via tablet verses from a human server.

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