Your virtual waiter is not here to take your order

Illustration for article titled Your virtual waiter is not here to take your order
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt (Getty Images)

Well, you did know it was coming, right? If you’re going to be eating out in the pandemic, you probably want to be as isolated from other people as possible. Restaurants around the world have been trying various methods: mini greenhouses and bell jars, handing over food on long boards, mannequins and ghosts at empty tables. And now, Reuters reports, Funky Pizza in Palafrugell, Spain, on the country’s northern Mediterranean coast, has introduced virtual waiters.

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Sadly, this doesn’t mean pizza will be magically transported from the kitchen to your table, Hogwarts-style. Instead what it means is that there will be no one coming over to the table to make a little speech that includes the words “My name is Juan Pablo, and I will be your server this evening” and “tonight’s specials are...” Instead all it means is that diners will look at the menu and place their orders via a smartphone app, just like they would if they were ordering takeout. (The app even has a tracking feature, like Domino’s!) The staff checks the orders on screens behind the counter, and the kitchen gets to work. And then, when the food is cooked, someone will bring it to the table and dart away and, presumably, no one will return to ask how the food is, just after everyone has taken their first big bite.

“Through this system we have tried to keep physical distance with our clients, which is what people are looking for during COVID,” owner Carlos Manich explained.

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Customer reactions have been mixed. Some customers appreciated the convenience of the app. But others missed the opportunity to ask specific questions about flavors or quantities. Reuters didn’t report how the servers felt about being sidelined or how the smartphone-deprived would place their orders.

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

Dr Emilio Lizardo

Remember to tip the app at least 20%!