Keeping Restaurants Old-School

Can you imagine a day when restaurants no longer sing “Happy Birthday” tableside during dessert because there’s no staff to do it? bday-cakeBefore you jump in and say, “Thank Goodness! I hate all that embarrassing attention from strangers,” please read on.

Five separate incidents have led me to this post. And you don’t need to be a foodie to appreciate the heightened degree of alarm with which my fingers fly across the keyboard today. Your local restaurants and coffee shops need you, you need them, and here’s why.

My husband recently attended a dinner reception while on a work trip in Illinois. Towards the end of the evening, a drone appeared with a platter above a group of colleagues and descended to deliver their dessert. While my first reaction was, “that is so cool!” my subconscious registered something disturbing – and it wasn’t concern over a tray potentially tipping and splattering chocolate mouse on an unsuspecting partygoer below (although that would be funny if it happened to mean Mildred from book club).

Enter incident #2.

I’ve witnessed a trend in local restaurants, especially here in Silicon Valley by nature of innovation, where you sit down, place your order via kiosk and food is delivered to you. Minimal interaction with staff, no one to ask what they recommend or what’s fresh that day, etc. Just get your food and go.

I then found myself reading a newspaper article about restaurants closing at an alarming rate (posted on my twitter feed @litetherapy). This is apparently due to a variety of factors, including the inability for some restaurants to absorb increasing costs and higher local wages, find/retain qualified staff, and competition from other restaurants or local businesses that offer in-house food service. Are more kiosk and drone establishments in our future? Say it isn’t so.

Well, I recently picked up the phone to call my favorite local cafe for a reservation and guess what? It was listed on Yelp as “permanently closed.” Sigh. So now it’s become personal. Perhaps that’s the motivation I needed to try and help.

Sadly, this trend doesn’t stop with restaurants. Just this week, a news report showcased a robot designed to process and serve coffee orders at lightening speed. BAHH!!!! Where’s the enjoyment in having machines do everything for us? Life is becoming too automated. It’s all fun and games now but how will our future look?

I love walking into my local coffee shop, listening to the music and surrounding customer commentary as I, yes, wait in line a bit for my lovingly brewed beverage, and talk with the barista about the unique coffee beans of the day.

Perhaps I just don’t want any of us to be that elderly person down the road with a family ‘grown and flown’ and unable to feel the warmth and happiness that personal interaction while dining out brings. Food really is more than fuel; it not only brings families together but communities as well.

Yes, your loved ones may still be around to fill in the happy birthday lyrics while dining in a waiter-less venue, but isn’t there something memorable about a total stranger making a scene about your birthday, bringing you that sombrero in a Mexican restaurant while riling up your guests and other patrons to join in, that brings a smile to your face? What if your future children or grandchildren never get to experience that simple pleasure?

Okay, I should probably “chill” now as my teens would say. After all, people did tell me traditional books would disappear with the Kindle introduction, which I have yet to see. No book reading device could ever replace for me the happy scent of a book. Ummm…maybe I should delete that last comment in case Amazon gets inspired to sell a scented model?!

So friends, please continue to support your local dining establishments and help keep them old-school and in business. After all, who really wants to walk around with a stash of birthday candles and matches in their pocket, or interact with technology all day long?

In support, I’m listing my current favorite restaurant below. Please feel free to do the same or tweet me with your recommendation and I’ll look forward to trying it out when I’m in the area. Oh, and best wishes for a very happy birthday!

The Table, Willow Glen, CA – @TheTableSJ or thetablesj.com

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