March 10, 2014
Pizza Hut’s Interactive Touchscreen Menu
I have to admit that when I read on Gizmodo that they had “seen the future and it’s this touchscreen Pizza Hut menu table,” my initial reaction was ‘ooh, yes!’ I am now willing to confess that they may have been an overreaction, but I am still excited by the idea.
Effectively, most of the table turns into a touchscreen, with a big white circle in the center (the pizza base) for us to build our custom-made pizzas on. We do this by sliding electronic representations of various pizza toppings onto the base and are shown, layer by layer, what our pizza will look like.
But that’s not all. Once the designer pizzas have been ordered, diners can play games on their table while they wait. At the end of the meal, they can pay using their smartphone. I would hope as well that if extra drinks or sides are required or there is a problem with the meal then waiting staff can be called using the touchscreen, without the need to try and catch their attention while feeling a bit embarrassed. If that function isn’t available, it is a pretty big oversight.
I have experienced variations on the ordering in restaurants theme while living in Asia. South Korea has a different approach to the usual, Western ‘wait until the staff decide it’s time for you to progress with your dining experience’ idea in that they have little buzzers on the table which you press when you need something. This is also often the case in bars too, which I can assure you feels like a godsend after years of queuing at length at the bar in England for what seem like increasingly essential drinks as the night goes on.
The alternative, in places with no table buzzers, was simply to bellow ‘YOGIYO!’ at the staff, which is a polite way of saying ‘come here.’ It wasn’t always said politely by locals, because they see customer service as being about the customer, not the pacification of waiting staff or, in cases of some establishments, trying to work around their superiority complexes. And all of this pampering of paying customers was done without demands for tips. I miss Korea. The only downside with the table buzzer system was when someone (and by ‘someone’ I mean myself) would lean on it by mistake, eventually requiring the smiling waitress to come and put a cup over it to protect it from idiocy.
In Japan, particularly in sushi restaurants, the use of touchscreens is already widespread. You can view pictures of sushi on interactive menus and then make your order, which is then delivered on a mini train. You can’t build your own electronic sushi yet, but then there isn’t much need when it is only rice and fish.
Inevitably, the Pizza Hut idea brought the usual questions of whether we should be discussing the finer points of, say, The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky over dinner, instead of messing around with electronics. But it is only Pizza Hut, after all! Perhaps if the finest French eateries in the world eventually had the option to play Angry Birds on the table between amuse bouche, we might have to ask questions. But for now, I am okay with interactive tables.
Image Credit: Thinkstock