I have said for many years that, with an appropriate restaurant-savvy partner, I'd like to open an automated restaurant. In-table PC's to order things, with card-readers.
I don't want to wait for the waiter to come over until I can order a drink. I might have driven a long way and be gasping of thirst before I care about a menu. Press, press, done before I've even taken my coat off.
I want to see the whole menu. The ingredients. A picture. The price. The associated special offers. Does it have pepper on it? A fully interactive menu would be great, and not be covered in the gravy-stains of the last patron, or have bits scribbled out on it. Plus, when something is no longer available, bam, you can't order it. I could even press the "I have an allergy button" and see if anything is incompatible with that without relying on the waiter to run back and forth to the kitchen.
I might want to tip one member of staff, but not know their name (or they happen to have finished their shift by then). Press "tip", select staff member photo (or select "All staff"), type in a reason, swipe card, done. And no arguments over who I intended it for.
I might well want to pay for my own stuff and not have to wait for the end of the meal and argue with friends. Or order a slice of cake to take home as a last minute thought after I've paid. Or split the bill via various common calculations. Or even tag five items as what John has to pay and let him pay that off the bill because he has to leave early. Press, press, swipe. Done.
I might wall desire a human to talk to, if something cocks up. Big green help button lights up the table, which summons a waiter, much like airplane call buttons. The waiter still has to be around to shuttle things from the kitchen, and this way seems easier - and politer - than having to flag him down as he passes with a table full of plates. Press, done.
I might well decide to change the order mid-flow. So long as the kitchen hasn't started on it yet, why not? Until the order's locked in, I can alter it. And I can even "lock" certain portions if one person at the table wants the starter now while the others only want mains and want to argue over it. Press, press, done.
I might want to pay first, or pay once I've eaten everything. I can choose.
I might want to buy some wifi access, or get a code for the toilet (I disagree with limiting toilets to paying customers only, except on an honesty agreement, but some places do just that and your receipt contains your code for the toilet), or donate to the charity associated with the restaurant, or buy the chef's recipe book. Press, press, swipe, done.
I might want to move tables mid-order, or take my drinks outside. Press, press, done and the waiters and kitchen automatically know where I am.
The back-end? The waiters still wait. The bar tabs are still on the EPOS. The kitchen still gets a ticket about what table wants what. And those that want manual service press one button.
We've already automated every part of the experience but the customer's.