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Folks, we have a game-changer in the restaurant business. When the iPad first came out, one of the obvious uses envisioned was as a fancy menu or wine list. And some restaurants adopted the iPad for this, but the idea hasn’t yet caught fire. Now a relatively cheap, custom tablet has come along to basically replace the waiter entirely. Say hello to E la Carte and the “Pronto” tablet. If this thing actually works as advertised and is durable, say goodbye to the indifferent 20-somethings who have been ruining your dining-out experiences. First, let me state that I am not some anti-labor greedhead. E la carte doesn’t publicly advertise itself as a payroll cutter, but it makes sense that restaurant staffing will be trimmed. Yeah, it sucks, but think of it this way: Would you give up ATMs to rehire bank tellers? That said, how does the Pronto work? As described, you get a tablet when you are seated. You can browse the menu, see pictures of whatever is available, get nutrition information for each dish, and whatever else they can offer in terms of information (food allergies, restaurant history, neighborhood descriptions, etc.). You place your order on the tablet and customize your dishes in any way that the restaurant allows. The tablet beams the info to the kitchen, and you are told how long it will take to get served. Yes, people will still have to move food and drinks back and forth, and you can tip them (and calculate the tip on the tablet, as well as play games). When it comes time to pay the bill, you do it on the tablet. Dinner is done. It was debuted last week at restaurants in San Francisco and Boston. Applebee’s is rumored to be the first big chain client. Variations on the table-computer are in play, so expect the competition between devices to heat up. A good waiter is hard to come by. And I am happy to give them a really good tip when I am served by one. Those folks will survive because they are hard-working and have common sense. If this tablet thing doesn’t work, we can always hire the fellow in the video above.

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