Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who needs a waiter

 Rafe Needleman introduces us to the future of ordering lunch or dinner.

Storific turns your iPhone (other platforms in development) into an order-taking waitbot. You step into your restaurant and as you're seated you get a code for your table. You put that into the app, and then you can see the establishment's menu on your phone, pick things you want, and have those orders delivered to the kitchen. You can also ping the system to send over water, a salt shaker, and so on. 

It may appear that this business is about making things better for diners, by making it easier to send orders in. It may also look like it's good for waiters since it makes them more efficient (they can come by to chat up customers and don't have to come back to take an order unless the diner wants that) and thus could improve their tips. But the real benefit of this app is bottom-line financial. It brings impulse buying to restaurant dining. Want another order of fries? Press the button. A second mousse, rapidement? Click.
Storific saves you from having to actually talk to a waiter.
Storific Founder Michael Cohen tells me that, "Curious customers order more. There's nothing to stop them." Since the service launched, he and his customers have learned that keeping the menu always accessible to the customer (on their smartphones) and making it easy to order, simply increases the size of the check.

Here's a prediction: At some point, somebody's going to roll up these dining apps, and likely make a little money doing so. For ordinary people, it's too much to use Yelp to find a restaurant, Open Table to book it, Taxi Magic to get there, Foursquare or Facebook to tell your friends where you are, and then Storific to order food. Some of these apps are already linked (Yelp with OpenTable), but there's more room here for integration. Siri, which Apple acquired, is the beginning of this, but there's more opportunity here, for a start-up, or for one of the giant data aggregators like Google.