Technology is creeping into all parts of our lives; need a travel card to get around London but there’s no one around to help? Go to the self-service machine! No time to wait in the line for groceries? Have them delivered to your house when you want!
Team MKT (as we’re more affectionately known) took an impromptu trip to Hubbard and Bell for a spot of brunch and were surprised (among the twizzly moustached hipsters) to see not only a plug but also a USB port at our table! Hurrah; as I walk through the valley of Holborn I shall fear no untimely phone battery death for charger points are near me.
Hurriedly high-jacking the restaurant electricity source for my own personal use, whilst envying my neighbours Eggs Benny and intrepidly Instgramming my own my Salmon Bagel (beautiful might I add) I started to think this might be the beginning of the end for just eating when you go to a nice restaurant and possibly the premature birth of the “Roffice” (Restaurant Office)? – Would it have been so bad to let the phone die – OF COURSE!! Then how could I make you jealous of my breakfast bagel?
It’s hardly a revolutionary idea, airports have long before now had charging points in their departure lounges and trains have had theirs next to the seats, I was even on a Mega Bus the other day that had a charging point and don’t get me wrong when I say to the charging Gods I was eternally grateful to catch up on Masterchef, and clearly, although you can sometimes get away from people furiously tapping away on their keyboards it seems like it’s becoming a thing of the past in the humble eatery and although very useful, I still felt it like a self-inflicted intrusion on what used to be a non-technology zone.
Whatever your opinions on the matter, the phone, tablet or laptop has very much become an integral part of dining, even to the point supplanting the need for customer service. Apps like Quikserve allow customers to order and pay through their own phone, nullifying almost all traces of interaction to a speedy food drop from your waitress. With one third of consumers more likely to use technology related options such as loyalty apps, ordering systems and QR scanning; maybe the provision of charging points makes more sense when framed in this way. *
As I said, this isn’t new news. From January 2015 Mc Donald’s begun a campaign in conjunction with technology firm Aircharge to offer up to 600 wireless charging points to 50 restaurants around London and across the UK. Again, useful yes (no one is denying the likeability of being able to charge your phone sans your own electricity supply), but how long are you really going to be hitched up in the corner of Mc D’s hogging the wireless charging mat, certainly not for the 20 minutes (max) that it will take you to inhale all of your food. With TGI’s rolling out it’s ‘Fast Track’ restaurants this year, which aim to serve diners in 10 minutes and provide them with full charging capabilities, it would appear that these facilities are aimed more at time-poor consumers than the electrical squatters of the world. *
But, I wonder if diners will become less enthused about eating so much as taking pictures of what they’re eating whilst having the adding option of being able to charge their phones, or if they would be so brash as to pull out the ol’ lappy and catch on up some emails – I mean come on, it’s not Starbucks! I think the maximum time allowance in most restaurants is 2 hours so, in the case of Hubbard and Bell the cost of me juicing up my phone is likely outweighed by what I would have paid to eat and drink there but it doesn’t stop me wondering if it would be taking the mick slightly to pull up a seat and get a tap water whilst “browsing the menu” for an hour while I save my iPhone from the brink of untimely battery death and then leave without so much as an overpriced coffee charged to my debit card – and what’s more, are there even T’s & C’s to say I can’t do that or is it just the unwritten rule to say “no dahhhlin’ people don’t do them kind of things round ‘ere”.
As the old adage goes, ‘the customer is always right’, but does the pandering to consumer technological needs aid or impede the money-making efforts of the poor restauranteur? Last year one owner of a busy New York restaurant decided to delve deeper into the reasons why his daily number of customers served, and thus revenue, had been falling over a period of 10 years. By interrogating video footage of his front of house, he came to some curious findings. Between 2004 and 2014 he found that the average time spent in the restaurant for each customer had increased from 1hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 55 minutes, despite the fact that he had hired more staff, cut back on complex menu items, and the restaurant itself had remained consistently busy. After scrutinising his footage, he pointed his finger firmly at one crucial factor causing this culinary procrastination – customers distracted on mobile phones and electronic devices. Another US coffee shop did some research into customer spending and found that laptop users spent on average $10 less per hour than a normal customer. It subsequently and abruptly banned laptops in their establishment, and have since noticed a spike in their profits. It thus appears that the advent of the digitally connected consumer could be a technological double edged sword for restauranteurs.*
On the other hand, some people genuinely make the decision to only eat at restaurants that have charging points which begs the question, is a good restaurant still only about the quality of the food or also (and apparently more importantly) about what it can offer to its diners in the way of technological innovation? Furthermore, would it positively boost or negatively diminish the reputation of a restaurant if I live tweeted about some good / bad service I receive before I’ve even left the building? A Technomic poll found that 65% of diners in 2014 see Wifi as an expectation and not a luxury.* The opinionated not-so-secret shopper is on the rise and yes, we all know everyone’s a critic when they want to be, but I genuinely wonder if I gave a bad review that was instantly picked up, would it instantly change the level of service I received?
All I know is, although I’m annoyed about my own lack of will power to touch my phone whilst I’m;
- In company
I do appreciate that as “the friend that always has to Instagram what she eats” or more importantly in a genuine emergency, I would have had enough battery power to call someone thanks to H&B’s ability to let me charge my phone!
*Essential Retail 2014
*Daily Mail 2014
Author – Natasha Miller – Executive Assistant