Monday, March 24, 2014

Is an App a substitute for personal service?

Having read an article about a new app this morning it got me thinking about whether apps should be used as a substitute for good personal service. Apparently Flypay - http://www.flypay.co.uk/ - have received £1m in funding for their app which will enable people to pay restaurant bills without the waiter being involved. There are claims of improved service for customers because, Flypay claim, the experience of actually paying the bill at the end of a meal is often cited as the biggest pain-point for restaurant goers. 

But should it be that way? I can sort of understand this for a fast service restaurant where both the customers and the restaurant need things to happen as quickly as possible, but even in those situations, and more particularly where that is not the case using an app would be a very poor substitute for being looked after really well on a personal level. 

An attentive waiter (sorry for the masculine version, but I don't want to keep typing waiter/waitress) would recognise that a party of diners had finished and ask them if they were happy with everything and did they want anything else, using a great opportunity to sell high margin drinks. If the answer is no the waiter would then be able to ask if they wanted the bill. On presentation and payment of the bill personal service would take away the painful elements and enable the waiter to thank the customers for their custom, talk about any upcoming special events at the restaurant, again check the customers were happy and say that they hoped to see them again soon. If appropriate they could also discuss any loyalty scheme the restaurant offers, getting to know the customers and building loyalty. None of that would be the same through an app.

Rather than use technology to take away a personal service, why not use it to create it - ensure the waiting staff have the right tools to provide the bill instantly is is asked for, and then to take the payment seamlessly. Add to the personal, don't take away through technology. I love technology and gadgets, but also think there are things which need people and a restaurant experience is as much about the people as the food to me.

Or am I just being old fashioned and not enough people care anymore?