iPad Restaurants

As I walked into the Delta Airlines departure area at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, I couldn't quite figure out where to go or what to do.  Apart from one row of standard airport benches, which were full, every other seat was attached to a table of some kind, with an iPad.  I grabbed a chair in the most inconspicuous spot I could find, ate the sandwich that I had picked up at the deli and quickly vacated my place, still uncertain as to the rules of iPad engagement.

I went up to two Delta employees.

"Excuse me," I said.  "What is the deal with the iPads?"

"Oh, they're free to use if you want to surf the Internet," she said.  "Or, if you want to order some drinks or food you can do that on the iPad as well."

"You mean this whole thing is a restaurant?"

"In a sense, yes. Wherever you order the food from, they will bring it to you there.  But again, if you just want to use the Internet, that's fine, too."

It all became clear.  I had arrived in the future and despite the fact I had already had a snack, I had to try out the food ordering thing for myself.

I sat down in a comfortable spot, perhaps 20 feet from my gate, pulled up the menu on my iPad and ordered a small salad.  Unlike normal restaurants, payment happens right away, via a credit card swipe device mounted to the left of the iPad.  Sure enough, within 15 minutes, a waiter popped by with my food.

The only flaw, as far as I could tell, was no opportunity to add a tip, but I might have just missed it.  Luckily, I had a few loose American dollars left and was able to leave those behind.

According to an article I found online, Delta began employing iPads a couple of years ago, in restaurants at LaGuardia and the Minneapolis-St. Paul airports, both stops on my homeward bound journey.  You can read an article on the initiative here.

As you will see, the idea is to ensure that your food arrives in 15 minutes or less, a coveted service, especially for customers with short connection times.  While eating, you can log into Facebook, Twitter and personal email accounts with the promise that as soon as the home button is pressed, your personal information is securely removed, or if the device is left idle for two minutes.

Is this the future?  Are the days of waiters and waitresses numbered?  Time will tell, I guess.  This application of technology has been around for almost two years, yet this week was the first time I have seen it.  How about you?

On the heels of a long trip that had tight connections at every turn, I wish they had this service at every airport.  If I knew there was a 15 minute guarantee, it would provide incredible solace for my stomach and my stress level.


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