Why do we still have waiters?

If anything indicates the tardiness of capitalism to introduce new technologies, it would have to be the continued existence of waiters. The Associated Press has a gee whiz piece on a London restaurant where rather than ordering with one of those annoying pests you use a touch screen.   A waiter is still required to deliver your food to the table so the technology is only halfway there. How come some “entrepreneur” has not made a move on this one before now? Why don’t we have chains of restaurants where you place you order electronically and wait for the meal to arrive via some gadget attached to the ceiling?


6 Responses to “Why do we still have waiters?”

  1. 1 informally yours

    Interesting innovation and having worked as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant think it is a good idea in the kind of fast food situation but not so much in other markets as they sell a dining experience and not just food.

    I recently read Down and out in London and Paris by George Orwell and think it is very relevant to this conversation. As I remember he described that the Hotel industry was established in the image of the class system and based very much upon the organisation of the aristocratic castle, as portrayed in the British TV series Upstairs Downstairs.

    In modern times occupancy rate statistics in Hotels would have changed dramatically, and there are many more high quality eating salons which don’t provide(Luxury or otherwise)accommodation. There is also a much broader demographic making use of food services separeate from accommodation – but answering the question about why we still have waiters/waitresses can’t be divorced from this class history.

    Answering the question as to why we can’t have electronic ordering with an automatic delivery service – since Orwell’s time there has been a lot of innovation and diversity in food services, and there are plenty of services in Pubs, Cafes, etc., where you get your number, and where it isn’t necessary to use waiting staff to deliver food.

    So I can’t see much of a market for auto delivery systems. The answer is making itself plain -we have waiters because there is a market as people who want their food delivered. i.e They want the experience of being waited on and this why waitresses/waiters are not obsolete and why they’ll be around for a while yet.

  2. 2 davidmc

    Hi Informally Yours. I totally agree that we have waiters because people want to be waited on. They do not want to line up to place an order or to pick up a meal when it is ready. The automation of the first bit is easy. You just need a cheap device on the table or have people use their smart phones. The food delivery is the harder bit. It requires either robots wandering around or some gantry arrangement on the ceiling.

  3. 3 jim sharp

    informally yours: ’tis important we ask those who labour as wage slaves.i’ve worked & observed the food industry for nigh on 70 years
    & seem massive changes in the means of production some for the better but only when “the workers have had some say”
    this published poem of mine always gets a beaut response when read to an hospitality audience

    a waitress
    glides as she flits between the tables
    and by virtue of dextrous hands
    serves up multiple dishes
    “the drunken chicken“being my favourite

    and with a deftly twist of the wrist
    pours the house red into mediocre crystal
    and thereafter with such cool finesse
    balances the empty dishes upon her forearms

    nonetheless! her daily workaday grind
    shows in her deadpan dark deep eyes & yet!
    shud an appreciating diner warmly connect
    tracy xing hua’s social sociableness be striking

    and at once her brooding lustrous eyes
    become alive & dance joyously
    chanced ! by the way of
    the diners sensual friendly grace

    thereafter esprit de corps brings forth
    a classy class-wink for instinctively they know
    within the final analysis there ain’t no boss who owns
    their know-how & life-chain experiences

  4. 4 Steve Owens

    Hi Informally Yours glad to hear that your reading Orwell. From memory in Homage to Catalonia he wrote that invariably waiters sided with Franco while barbers sided with democracy. Again from memory he attributed this to waiters being schooled in subservience while barbers were independant people who had some control over their work.

  5. 5 davidmc

    Ah! Hairdressing also needs to be automated. A robot arm with scissors! No doubt the more fancy styling would take longer to automate.

  6. 6 Dalec

    We have lots of waiters in classy reatuarants because they are necessary to enable the restuarant owner to extract more surplus value from them.
    Something about the labour theory of value I guess.

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