A couple order their food on the "e-menu" touch-screen
Restaurants in Europe, the United States and Japan are testing technology to let diners order their food direct from a screen at their table instead of depending on a fellow human being to note their choice -- sometimes grumpily or erroneously.
Besides cutting costs, companies that sell the "e-menu" argue the bytes-for-bites approach has a novelty value that can lure younger customers, and boost revenues as tantalizing photographs of succulent steaks and gooey desserts tempt diners to order more.
In Israel, privately owned start-up Conceptic has already installed e-Menu technology in sushi bars, pubs and family restaurants. The system is based on touch-screens already used in self-service canteens or for ticketing in airports and cinemas.
"It's about impulse-buying," said Adi Chitayat, Conceptic's chief executive. "If a person starts looking at pictures of chocolate cake, the chances are he'll order it."
The firm has also supplied its systems to restaurants in France, South Africa and Belgium.
Frame, a trendy sushi restaurant in Tel Aviv which has installed the system, said sales on tables with the e-Menu have increased by about 11 percent. Customers often call ahead to reserve spots equipped with the screens, manager Natalie Edry told reporters.
At one of the e-Menu tables, information technology worker Gil Uriel and his young family were enthusiastic as they checked out pictures of the dishes on offer and squabbled over desserts.
"It's more visual," said Uriel. "We can still choose, we can still argue -- but it's much easier when you can all see it."