Using Smart Phones And I-Pads At Bars Not Practical, Though It Does Possess Dating Potential
A friend went out in San Francisco recently and came back to Los Angeles telling of a new phone application he used in a bar.
He was at the launch party of a friend’s friend’s – don’t worry, that’s as complicated as this gets – new product. It’s Coaster, in which you order and pay for your your drinks (including tip) on your smart phone or an iPad at the bar. A bartender makes them, and you get an alert when it’s ready. Then you go to a station and get the drink.
He seemed excited about it but I have a lot of questions, not the least of which is this: What’s the point?
It’s only application, as I see it, is in a very crowded place. I suppose there’s something to be said for being able to order a drink without having to squeeze up to the bar and hold out your money, wave or use other means (don’t shout, bartenders hate it when customers shout at them) to get the bartender’s attention.
But when the order is ready, don’t you have to squeeze into the service area to get your drink? And are your fighting a waitress for that space?
Sometimes, we use technology just because we have it. Or we use it to develop a plethora of products and services in an effort to make Facebook-type money, only a few of which are actually helpful. This one, to me, does not seem practical.
For starters, one of the big drawbacks of smart phones in bars and restaurants is that they are conversation killers. Next time you’re out, look around and see how many people are talking to people and how many are on their phones. It’s at least 50/50.
Coaster takes away the banter with the bartender, an important part of the bar experience. A good bartender will eventually start to give you more generous pours, and that keeps customers happy, at the bar longer than they might have normally stayed and going back to the business to visit that bartender. Regular customers are the lifeline for bars, no matter how popular it is during peak times.
With a bartender just slinging drinks for anonymous customers, what kind of quality drinks are you receiving?
What if the bartender makes a mistake, then what do you do, and how to you get his or her attention? If you ordered a Stella Artois and get a Bud Light instead, or are handed a vodka cranberry instead of a vodka soda, you have to go back to the bar, right?
What if another customer accidentally picks up your drink? Could happen, especially if they are distracted because they are on their phone.
And do you really want your drink sitting for any length of time at an unattended station, unable to keep an eye on it? Especially if you’re a girl?
What’s the incentive for the bar? In an ideal world with Coaster, it needs a bartender dedicated specifically to making these drinks and an area specifically designated to place those drinks (and that place needs to be within easy reach of that bartender). That’s additional resources and space. It would seem to work better in a new bar that could be designed specifically with a Coaster station for both.
Now to be fair, I’ve not used Coaster, have not seen Coaster in action and was not at the launch party.
I can also envision some benefits to it for bar customers. For one, it could be a good conversation starter. Peering over one’s shoulder as they are ordering on the iPad and making a clever comment about what they are drinking. Or if you see a couple of cute girls waiting for drinks, offering to retrieve their drinks for them when ready. That could lead them to ask you to join them for a while.
All this is not meant to criticize Coaster, just to question it’s practicality.
I just know, as a regular barfly, that if I see it in a bar, I’ll most likely not use it. Unless girls are, and I can use it as conversation starter. Then, the Coaster people may have something they didn’t even envision – a bar dating application.