America’s largest chain of diners, Applebee’s, has announced it is to install 100,000 tablets at its tables to allow customers to order food and pay their bill without the need to collar a waiter.
The hi-tech move marks the first significant shift toward computerisation in the service industry, which has thus far remained reliant on human workers.
A pilot programme will still rely on waiters to take the initial order but an embedded touch screen device can be activated to order extra side dishes or pay bills by credit cards.
That functionality will be steadily extended over the coming 18 months to include games, video streaming and music.
Mike Archer, Applebee's president said: “Let’s face it; everyone who has ever been to a restaurant has been frustrated by waiting for their cheque. Starting out, our goal was to create a way for guests to control when and how they pay their cheque."
Waiting staff have expressed concern at the move however, fearing reduced generosity of tip giving once human contact is removed.