Well, if Starbucks could turn the act of having a cup of coffee into a high tech, super social, retail experience, why can’t the restaurant industry? We’ve already reported in this space all the digital doings fast food giant McDonald’s has in store for the future, so you had to figure the step-up restaurant chains wouldn’t be far behind.
The Legal Seafood chain is launching what they are calling, “The restaurant of the future,” with their Legal Test Kitchen debut in Logan Airport in Boston. In a release the company sent out last week, they claim the Test Kitchen will provide “a glimpse into some of the restaurant industry’s most innovative technology.”
They tell us that diners will be able to surf the Web or watch TV at their tables using portable plasma touchscreens while listening to iPods via individual speakers. The hassle of ordering and paying would be mitigated by waiters toting handheld PDAs and portable machines that let you swipe your own credit card. Food orders will be automatically beamed back to the kitchen by the patrons via handheld wireless gadgets.
Pretty interesting idea, but we quickly asked, do people really want all this stuff around the table when they’re eating? According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual Restaurant Industry Forecast, the answer is yes. Twenty-seven percent of adults surveyed by the Restaurant Association said they would use wireless Internet at their favorite restaurant; 52 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds would. One in four adults would watch a tableside TV. While Legal Seafood is the only “restaurant” chain we know of that plans to incorporate technology in this way, the interest is certainly there for others to follow.