Skip

The Future of Eating Out
March 16, 2009 10:31 AM   Subscribe

The Inamo restaurant in London's fashionable SoHo district isn't known for its splendid food or accommodating waitresses. Instead, this new Asian fusion eatery is getting raves for its use of a touch pad-projection system that allows diners to send food orders directly to the chefs and makes the dining experience fully interactive. It's all one graphic application, with new iconography for signs and menus, graphic wallpaper and tablecloths, shopfront etched patterns and illuminated screens.

Every table at Inamo has its own image projector, meaning every person essentially gets to eat off a giant computer screen. This allows the restaurant to offer several interesting experiences, like selecting the mood of the table by choosing between different "place mat" images and videos.

While you're waiting for your meal to arrive, you can click on a kitchen camera that let's you see your food being prepared, play different types of computer board games, and when you're done, you can separate bills and boot up a map to figure out your next destination.
posted by netbros (40 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
For some reason I when I read this I flashed back to the days in which I used to eat at the "stolovaia" (cafeteria) in my dorm in Moscow, USSR. We got gruel and watery tea served by angry old women who were paid basically nothing by bosses who were on the take. It was a "fully interactive dining experience," let me tell you.
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:40 AM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pretty cool! Language-nerd point, it's just 'Soho' in London, as opposed to NYC's SoHo, which is a shortening of "SOuth of HOuston street", whereas London's Soho is derived from an old hunting call as it was, at one time, a King's Hunting ground.

Pretty cool place - might have to pop along and check it out. Hope the food's good mind.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:46 AM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


[SoHo, as in 'South of Houston Street' is in New York City. Soho, as in a hunting or battle cry, is the one in central London]
posted by i_cola at 10:48 AM on March 16, 2009


[Ha! I knew I should've previewed!]
posted by i_cola at 10:48 AM on March 16, 2009


Talking to a waiter can be awfully interactive. Why does putting more machinery between the participants equate increased interactivity?
posted by ardgedee at 10:49 AM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is a great idea - I will definitely be going to try it.
posted by verisimilitude at 10:50 AM on March 16, 2009


Just don't go there for the food, especially if you're hungry. Or poor.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:54 AM on March 16, 2009


I go out to get away from bloody computer screens
posted by doobiedoo at 10:54 AM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


That's cool and all, but I wish the Happy Diner here in Billings, Montana was still open. Its method of high tech interactivity? Look at the menu, then pick up a telephone at the back corner of the booth and talk directly to the cook in the kitchen.

BZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!
"Yeah, table 9 what can I get you?"
"2 orders of Cheese Crunchies, a fried chicken platter, BLT, and 2 Cokes."
"OK bye!"

Within minutes, a friendly waitress magically brought it to the table.

I miss Cheese Crunchies.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:55 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Servers are not allowed to communicate with the consumers nor would they wish to. They exist only to praise Papa Song and give us the piping-hot mealstuffs from FoodCorp. Thanks to corpocracy for this wonderful new invention!!!!!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:58 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


And just how long before subtle (or not so subtle) ads start appearing throughout your expensive little dinner? You absolutely know it's coming.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:01 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder how the interactive screens feel about patrons making ice cream at their tables..?
posted by i_cola at 11:01 AM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one who thought this was about oral sex?
posted by Simon Barclay at 11:05 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


and when you're done, you can separate bills

That, my friends, is progress. I always try to carry enough cash to just drop some bills for my share of the meal, but we live in such a cashless society these days that too often a large group has to force the waitress to whack up the bill among several cards, and it's just a way bigger hassle than it needs to be.

This White Whine brought to you by Bookhouse.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've known about this and walk by it all the time but, well, ... call me old-fashioned: I like to go to a restaurant for the food.
posted by vacapinta at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Finally, that diner that Gumby and his friends went to comes to life.
posted by mkb at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2009


Sounds like a very expensive Sonic. Bet Inamo doesn't have Frito pie burritos.
posted by jamaro at 11:08 AM on March 16, 2009


Instead, this new Asian fusion eatery is getting raves for its use of a touch pad-projection system that allows diners to send food orders directly to the chefs and makes the dining experience fully interactive.

Beats the completely non-interactive experience one has when ordering from waiters etc. Glad to know also that there will be games to fill in all those awkward silences that generally occur when dining with friends. Seriously, isn't it bad enough when you go into a restaurant with a TV? "Interactive" my ass.
posted by Edgewise at 11:12 AM on March 16, 2009


"Ever eat off a projected touch-pad? YOU WILL! And AT&T will bring it to you."
posted by Rhomboid at 11:14 AM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Regarding food as entertainment is a big reason why the US is in the trouble that it's in now.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:20 AM on March 16, 2009


So they took uWink and updated the tech? Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uwink
posted by Lizc at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2009


Every table at Inamo has its own image projector, meaning every person essentially gets to eat off a giant computer screen.

It would be awesome (but, perhaps fatal) if Gibby Haynes were somehow a partner in this venture.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why does putting more machinery between the participants equate increased interactivity?

On the other hand, why have a waiter fussing about at your every whim? More often than not its just awkward. I've done my time as a waiter so I know what a sham it is, e.g.I cringe whenever they call anyone sir. As far I'm concerned the chef-waiter-customer route is an outdated model of dining retained partly due the technological problem of having kitchens and tables in separate rooms, but largely due to man's base desire for hierarchy. Orwell got it exactly right in Down and Out in Paris and London: Any service beyond what is absolutely necessary fosters a faux luxury at the expense of good hospitality. The only interactions that really matter are a) the food b) the friends you eat with. Everything else is instrumental.
posted by verisimilitude at 11:30 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd gladly trade all those interactive features for the ability to just get my bill and pay directly through the table. For some reason it feels to me like escaping a restaurant takes an eternity, compared to things like ordering more drinks.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:35 AM on March 16, 2009


I'm waiting for various leftist groups to hack this.

Patrons Jeff & Amanda walk in, sit down.

Jeff looks at the menu, and lingers over the roasted quail. The screen fades to an African veldt, with hundreds of quail running freely through the beautiful day. A small confirm button sits in the bottom-right corner. He clicks on it..

MEANWHILE:

Amanda is alternating between spying on the chef and playing a game of battleship. There is an option to make her game more interactive. Curious, she selects it...

A montage of images flash from their screens, barely recognizable as they go by.

Here, a quail pen, packed so tight they cannot even move.

Here, a WWII-era battle group is readying for war. Props spinning up, marines getting organized

Here, a single quail is at the chopping block. Piles of his kith and kin are in the background. The butcher grins malevolently, his knife glistening with blood. The knife comes down quickly and --

Here, a beach is being stormed. Gunfire all around, explosions overhead. The camera's point of view focuses on a small object arcing towards him. Pan down to see it land in the sand. It's a grenade. A flash of light.

A slow pan, with jaunty music, of the chef cooking Jeff's quail. Certain distinguishing characteristics, along with quick flashbacks, make it clear we have the same animal that was so brutally dismembered. It is drizzled with a light red wine sauce.

Still a slow pan, still the jaunty music, and the beach is devoid of life. But corpses fill the beach, blackened corpses with gulls floating overhead, descending. The pan turns out to sea and we watch the battle group on fire, sinking. Squinting, we can spot individual sailors jumping ship, trying to put out the flames that surround them. The screen fades to black.

You sunk my battleship. Play again?
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:38 AM on March 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


On the other hand, why have a waiter fussing about at your every whim? More often than not its just awkward.

I can't go out for sushi here without missing the Japanese table-buzzer that was omnipresent out there (in all kinds of restaurants). You can safely ignore, and be ignored, by service staff until you unambiguously ring for their attention.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:51 AM on March 16, 2009


Orwell got it exactly right in Down and Out in Paris and London: Any service beyond what is absolutely necessary fosters a faux luxury at the expense of good hospitality. The only interactions that really matter are a) the food b) the friends you eat with. Everything else is instrumental.

Yes, but Orwell was arguing against unnecessary luxury and trappings. He was notorious for getting kicked out of restaurants for refusing to keep his coat on. I'd like to think that he'd believe that these touch screens would fall into the category of unnecessary luxury - certainly the quality of the food at this place does not by itself justify the prices.

Actually, I'm a fan of the conveyor belt sushi places. It is neither game nor diversion nor pretension. It is, rather, more like you describe - a way to get your food.
posted by vacapinta at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2009


"Any service beyond what is absolutely necessary fosters a faux luxury at the expense of good hospitality. The only interactions that really matter are a) the food b) the friends you eat with. Everything else is instrumental."

Unless you're eating somewhere halfway decent, and then the waitstaff can help you pick something good and to your liking. It's even more important where wine is involved. I'm on the ADD side that doesn't like a lot of unnecessary interaction, so I don't really like dealing with more people than I have to, but sometimes it's important. But some people like to be waited on, and there will always be work for those who want to wait on them.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2009


Sometimes, when I've spent too much time in front of a computer screen, I feel a little out of practice when it comes to dealing with people. Ordering from waiters, paying cashiers, or saying hi to the mailman helps me get back into the swing of things before I find myself in a real social situation.

That said, being able to call a cab or find a local bar from your table is pretty helpful. Same with being able to read the bill in clear text rather than scribbled handwriting. As long as restaurants keep the system as something subtle and useful rather than GAMEZ WHILE U EAT, I'll be fine with it. That said, imagine opening up an arcade-cafe in which the point is to come there and play games around your coffee sandwiches? That could be fun.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 12:14 PM on March 16, 2009


"For some reason it feels to me like escaping a restaurant takes an eternity, compared to things like ordering more drinks."

That's odd, or just lazy on the part of the waitstaff. The dessert is usually an upsell, but you want to turn those tables over or go home if it's the end of the shift.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:15 PM on March 16, 2009


So. How's the food?
posted by tommasz at 12:17 PM on March 16, 2009


They had me at "wouldn't it be cool if you could just hit a button and a waiter brought you another beer?" Projecting the food onto the plate is a nice, if obvious, touch, as long as they follow the rule of only having appetizing pictures of your food.

Customizing the appearance of the tabletop is a bit much, though. The shots of all the clashing tabletops was pretty tacky. And the interactivity at a restaurant should be between the people at the table, not between the people and the table.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:20 PM on March 16, 2009


Oh, good point vacapinta. It's odd, though, that kaiten zushi places here are expensive whereas in Japan they tend to be of the lower-quality/class variety. But then I'm in Ottawa and will take any good sushi I can afford.

imagine opening up an arcade-cafe in which the point is to come there and play games around your coffee sandwiches? That could be fun.

I WANT.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:24 PM on March 16, 2009


They had me at "wouldn't it be cool if you could just hit a button and a waiter brought you another beer?"

What's wrong with a "Beer Me" paddle like at Fuddruckers? That's a classy joint!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 12:37 PM on March 16, 2009


I didn't know that Fuddruckers had a "Beer Me" paddle. Now I will always eat there.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:34 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


verisimilitude: The only interactions that really matter are a) the food b) the friends you eat with. Everything else is instrumental.

In the last forty years, the boom in technology has a huge effect on us socially: we can find large numbers of people who are interested in almost anything, we can find members of any minority or special interest group, in seconds and connect with them easily. Where once we had to spend time searching for 'our people,' now they're right in front of us. This means we're spared the annoying and embarrassing traditions that past generations had to endure to connect with those that are like-minded; we don't have to join clubs, we don't have to put up with rude people, we don't have to talk to those who have odious opinions, and we don't have to spend time with people that grate on us, as we used to, simply because 'they're the only people we know.' In fact, we can create whole realms where we are anonymous, where we can do or say anything we like without the uncomfortable and looming certainty that we'll have to face people who know how we acted come tomorrow. And now we might be able to do away with another of those little inconveniences: the strange balancing act that we go through when we go to a restaurant and have someone bring us food; the unknown quantities - will the waiter be an asshole? will I be an asshole? what if the relationship goes sour? and, worst of all, how will I find the energy to have to interact with a stranger? - are all nullified.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like if we remove all of the uncomfortable or difficult interactions that we have to go through with other people, we may very well find that we're becoming so incredibly insular and closed-minded that we can barely think at all. It's already happened a good deal, I think - look at politics, where neither conservatives nor liberals have to talk to those who disagree with them anymore at all, and you'll see that we're more certain every day that we're right.
posted by koeselitz at 2:06 PM on March 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well... I think it's neat.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:36 PM on March 16, 2009


I might go to see it out of curiosity, but it really doesn't appeal to me.

On the table top restaurant game front though, remember micro machines, when you had to drive around a kitchen table, avoiding bowls and food? A table top game where it would generate a track based on the actual stuff on the table would be pretty cool, particularly if you could alter it as you played by moving things. Gameplay might be rubbish, but it would be cool initially anyway.
posted by knapah at 4:38 AM on March 17, 2009


I went last November as a group of 6. The food was fine, but not great. Certainly no better than Busaba. The ordering system is cute; it works via expensive projectors on the ceiling. But there's very little functionality beyond ordering and changing your background so it gets boring pretty quickly.

While the prices for the dishes doesn't seem too high, portions are very small so it ends up being expensive. I spent £80 for myself and my dining parter (including alcohol) for a meal that would have cost half and been at least a good at Busaba.
posted by quiet at 11:25 AM on March 17, 2009


This reminds me of something from the early boom years of silicon valley:

There was an Arby's on El Camino, maybe in Sunnyvale, that had installed touch pad order screens in front of each cashier station. Customers would arrive at the counter and select menu items off the screen, some of which had pictures next to them of steam sweet roast beef, golden gooey cheese oozing off the bun, apple turnovers, etc. then press enter.

The really weird part was that the cashier was still standing right there, waiting to take your money. It was absolutely bizarre to wait for your order to be prepped while the cashier just stood there silent, as if they were forbidden to speak.

I wanted to go back again, just to revel in the surreal David-Lynch-scape of it all.


As for the FPP, I would really miss the feel of a menu in my hand and the conversation with the wait staff. I think that this would really become a big deal if, as an optional supplement to the ordering experience, driven by the waiter, further information on specials or menu items could be brought up like images, ingredients, recommended wines, side dishes, etc. Also, there is a great opportunity here for multiple language assistance.
posted by buzzv at 11:31 AM on March 17, 2009


« Older Pictures don't lie   |   The Obama Proxy Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post