New Bluetooth-Enabled Placemat Lets Diner Order with Their Smartphone

By Mike Pomranz |

Here’s how ordering typically works: You pick what you want off a menu, tell that order to a server and then the server relays that information to a cook who actually cooks your food. Now tech companies are looking for ways to cut out the middleman from ordering altogether.

Putmenu is the latest piece of technology aimed at turning ordering into a more direct process. In many ways, it resembles a traditional placemat in size and shape; but Putmenu—which is currently in the testing phase—is Bluetooth-enabled, allowing it to communicate with your smartphone. When your phone is placed on the mat, a phone app picks up the mat’s unique ID. Diners can then place their order via the app—information which is sent to a cloud-linked kitchen—and since all of the info is tagged to a specific seat, runners know exactly where to serve each order.

According to ITworld, “The app can save diners and staff time and can display restaurant menus in the user’s preferred language, reducing confusion for foreign tourists, said Tony Saito, CEO of US-based developer Putmenu, which plans field trials starting in July.” The company demoed the new system on Friday in Tokyo.

Reducing interactions between diners and servers has seemingly become more popular of late. Big companies like Chili’s and Applebee’s have been adding tablets on tables to make ordering easier. Putmenu, which utilizes new PaperBeacon technology, goes one step further by allowing customers to order on their own device—a step that could theoretically save restaurants money, since PaperBeacons can cost less than buying a whole tablet.

The system reduces the social interaction that is dining out. But we’re already using our phones to avoid talking to the people we supposedly wanted to eat a meal with; why not add the waitress to the mix?

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