Saturday, 3 August 2013


I stopped at an outdoor cafรฉ under the shade of umbrellas and plane trees while walking through town the other day. I didn't mind sitting with a refreshing breeze wafting through the square while I waited for my order to be taken. After some few minutes, the waitress, who was very friendly but seemed a bit anxious and distracted—not exactly inattentive but rather occupied with sending text-messages on her Handy, it appeared, the waitress finally brought me a beer. Returning seconds later, like an after-thought that one usually experiences after hanging the phone, she asked if I didn't mind paying right away.

She apologized for being abrupt, but explained it was the end of her shift—crews changing at an awkward time, and she had to clear all of orders before leaving. I also noticed that she was not messenging her friends but rather trying to figure out how to work a point-of-sale application installed for managing orders for the cafe in her personal phone. That explained her behaviour. I was always a little suspicious of these traditional point-of-sales systems (also given here, there is not anyone who does not pay in cash), with strugglingly awkward interfaces, incompatibilities, expensive, and quite an investment to maintain, hardware exclusively serviced by company technicians, and regarded them as the surplus of the military-industrial complex, unnecessary gadgets that contractors, pawning off what they could not sell directly to the government, convinced small businesses were indispensable. I've never actually seen one in use at a bar, but a few years ago, the hospitality industry was trying to sell an electronic coaster that would alert wait-staff when a customer had downed their drink, ensuring prompt service. I can't exactly say that's necessary in most circumstances. In theory, I concede, such a network could speed up orders by altering the kitchen to the next dish as soon as the order was placed and be a big help when it came to monitoring inventory and studying sales trends, as well as the obvious cash-controls. Providing that all one's employees report to work with the latest cellular contraption anyway and consent to being temporarily corralled, being able to try this system out on the cheap seems a pretty clever idea and the platform, I think, would be flexible enough to fit the cafรฉ's exact specifications—or be dropped altogether for a pad and pencil when gains do not materialise for the effort.