A few days ago, I came across a tweet espousing the amazing leaps in technology as it related to gastronomy. “If I didn’t know better,” said aforementioned Tweeter, “we’ll be living in the Jetson age of restaurant technology in no time!”
Senior Tweeter was referring to the eMenu, the future of restaurant ordering. Developed in 2005 by an Israeli company called Conceptic. Using a networked LCD screen that is located on each table or bar, the customer is offered a range of ordering and interactive entertainment services. In short, it’s a nifty virtual menu.
So this got me thinking, I’ve seen this technology used in the chic Barcelona wine bar, Monvinic, though the navigation is rather clunky, but could this work in a Spanish tapas bar?
Part of what I love about the tapeo in Spain is the experience of walking into a jammed-packed bar filled with festive sounds of glasses clinking, bartenders shouting out customer orders and music pulsating fusion flamenco overhead. In the first 4 minutes, it’s guaranteed that you’ll know your neighbor, feel his or her shoulder right up to your own as you both intently vye for space at the bar. There isn’t a notion of personal space, nor of respectful turn-taking. It’s every man for himself, and it’s done with comradery, common understanding and an appreciation of the process.
Now, imagine if you had a monitor set up on each table top bar, with an eMenu, allowing you to order your tapas and drinks in a calm, efficient manner. No more would be the days of getting an elbow in your stomach while asking for your ‘copa de cava’, waiting 20 minutes to find a waiter to grab your check, or the simple act of moving up to the bar to say ‘buenos dias’.
Which would you prefer?
Personally, despite my griping about customer service in Spain, I would never change the experience. Part of what makes Spain so magical and appealing is that you have contact with your neighbors, friends, family and strangers. The packed sardine experience in a tapas bar, as you wave your hands desperately in front of the bartender to simply ask for a tapa of tortilla de patatas, is what makes Spain unique and different from anywhere else in the world. A computer screen doesn’t communicate the smell of the jamon as it’s sliced thinly on the bar, nor the pop of the Cava bottle as its bubbles dance in your glass. This is Spain, and though this practical and very useful technology has its place in the world, I can only hope Spain’s tapas bars will never be one of them!
What do you think? Should tapas bars incorporate the futuristic eMenu?