Balancing Technology and Hospitality in the Modern Age— Is There a Happy Medium?

Restaurants are adapting to the ever-changing technology climate—is this a good thing? These days there is an app to facilitate almost any dining experience including making reservations, tracking wait times, placing orders, and processing payment. The adaptation to modern technology in the restaurant sphere has altered the dining experience for both guests and operators. Can human hospitality and technology cohabit in restaurants, or must one dominate the other?

From a guest standpoint, technology can provide a no-frills, however sterile, experience in which getting from point A to point Z requires few superfluous interactions in between. Are these interactions actually superfluous though? While it’s not far fetched to assume that one day all restaurants could be completely operated by iPads, do servers, hosts and managers possess an indispensable human quality that machines cannot replicate? Then the question becomes, “Is the hospitality experience created by the service team’s human interaction a requisite for guests, or are technological apps that can perform the same duties without the small talk sufficient?” From an operator perspective restaurant apps can ultimately lead to more profitability. Theoretically, guest traffic count would increase and fewer front of house staff would be required.

The app Cover allows guests to pay the bill without having to ask and wait for the check. Guests can select a tip percentage of their preference to be automatically calculated, and they can opt to divide the tab by the number of guests in their party. This is an example of an app that eliminates a tedious process that often leads to frustrating lag times; in this instance, hospitality is not of the utmost importance. However, when guests have control of their entire dining experience from appetizer to dessert at the tip of their fingers, literally, are the seemingly unnecessary steps of interacting with a server really that unnecessary? It may seem appealing to a single diner who is not in the mood for chit chat or to a group of friends who would rather focus on their conversation as opposed to the ordering process— but would the presence of a server actually provide an additional benefit instead of creating an unnecessary obstacle?

Servers are humans at their core, with life experience, people skills and opinions— all qualities that programs cannot acquire no matter how intelligent they are. Servers, hosts, managers and other front of house team members can guide guests in the right direction depending on guests’ moods, dietary preferences and any other concerns. Hypothetically, even if apps could somehow be designed to form humanlike judgments and opinions, will their efficiency and intelligence ever be a suitable replacement for the comfort of human interaction? Whether there’s a standard that restaurants should live up to in terms of balancing human hospitality with technology is ultimately up to the restaurateur; there may not be one right answer.

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