Has corona killed your waiter?
When the vax shores up our collective immunity, allowing the hospitality sector to truly fling open its doors to the world this summer (* looking up into the skies, please God), you will probably notice a 250-year-old mainstay of restaurant dining gone missing.
You may look around, and call out: Garçon!
And to no avail.
Nobody will be around to hear you.
Or serve you.
The COVID-19 pandemic could well have killed your waiter – only figuratively speaking, I hope of course – and replaced them with your phone (most probably already powered by 5G).
Disposed of contaminated paper menus, like rubbing a genie bottle or clicking your fingers, you will simply scan a QR code, or tap an NFC tag, and order what you wish. And it will appear out of thin air: voilà!
It won’t matter where you are; in a hotel room, a rooftop bar, pool or beachside deckchair, a golf course or casino, your food or drink will find you. It’s likely that the genie will be in the form of a drone.
From the first day a French proprietor of a humble soup shop invented the menu in the early 1800s, waiters have been at our beck and call, greeting us upon arrival, recommending dishes, taking and delivering our orders, filling our drinks, clearing our tables, processing our checks…
They have survived all manner of automation, including vending machines, self-service canteens, walk-through cafeterias, BYO, take-away trucks, hotel smorgasbords, bicycle deliveries and teppanyaki as well as sushi trains.
Video killed the radio star and it seems digital is killing our waiters.
But is it really? And if so, how? Or why?
While I don’t think waiters are on the verge of extinction, I’m sure their numbers will dwindle considerably in the next five years. At the end of the day, waiters cost a lot to keep and hospitality is exiting its biggest ever crisis in history since World War II.
Rather than serve, waiters that endure will probably become more like exotic, endangered creatures. They will primarily welcome or entertain – in some way or another, they will be tasked to improve the guest or customer experience.
A niche audience may pine for the past, when hospitality was a comfort, when it had a human touch.
I blame Netflix.
Everything has become on-demand.
While we grew up hanging on suspense, prolonging our desires for almost everything, like a letter in the mail or our favourite TV show every Sunday afternoon, the new generation wants everything now!
Waiters, err sorry, I mean waiting. Waiting is for losers.
Yes, waiting. Not waiters.