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Why oh Why YWaiter?

Written By Scott Joseph On May 19, 2010

iPhone_miniI’ve got a new iPhone and so I’ve been doing a lot of exploring of apps that are available for it, especially food-related apps. There are a lot of amazing tools to make life easier with the touch (and sometimes a slide) of a finger to a phone. Life-changing, even, or at least game-changing. I’m not sure where this one falls.

It’s called YWaiter, as in ‘Why Wait,” and it promises “The complete restaurant experience on your iPhone.” No, they haven’t figured out a way to have hot soup spill out of the phone into your lap. To be honest, I’m not sure they’ve figured anything out at all just yet.

Here’s how I think this thing is supposed to work. You touch the YWaiter icon to open the splash screen. It asks you for your current location. Based on where you are, the app will show you a list of restaurants that participate in its “restaurant experience on the iPhone.” From the list, you may choose a restaurant and begin ordering your food. You can specify that you want it ready to go for takeout, or you can tell it that you will be dining in.

Let’s say you find a restaurant called Chimi’s (and there’s a reason I’m using this restaurant as an example; I’ll explain in a moment). The menu opens up on the phone and you can browse it by category — appetizer, entree, dessert — click on an item to read its description and see a photo of the dish, then tap a button to add it to your order. You can even type in instructions, such as a request to make the taco you’ve just ordered extra spicy.

When you submit your order, you’ll be asked if you want it for delivery, to pick up, or to dine in. If you choose “dine in” it will ask you for your table number. Could this be the end of waiter service?

No, I don’t think so. The reason I used Chimi’s restaurant as an example is because it is the only one that came up on my phone when I did a search. And Chimi’s doesn’t exist. It is loaded on the phone only to give users a feel for what they could do if any restaurants were actually signed up to participate. YWaiter did give me a list of restaurants in my area — um, thanks, got that already — and offers me “points” to get my favorite restaurants to sign up.

But even if it were loaded with participating restaurants, would this be a good idea? Well, I could see its usefulness for takeout or delivery, especially with the ability to add notes and special requests. I’m not so sure it is very useful for the dine-in function (the order won’t be placed until you are seated anyway, so why not just order when you get there?). It does have an interesting function for diners that allows them to call their waiter to the table. (Note to self: look into developing Tase-a-Bad-Waiter app.) But that might be taking technology too far.

There are, of course, plenty of useful restaurant apps, including Yelp and UrbanSpoon, though each seems to have outdated information (Barney’s Steakhouse has been closed a while now, folks). And Zagat’s section for Orlando is almost laughable. Of the five (five!) restaurants it lists in downtown Orlando, one is Pei Wei.

Makes me wonder if there might be a place for a more comprehensive restaurant guide app for Orlando, maybe one based on an online Orlando Restaurant Guide site. What do you think?

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