The End Is Near

Via HAIF:

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Tombstone Deep Dish Pizza, and Hell followed with him.  And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with vending machine pizza, and with high-fructose corn syrup, and with trans-fatty acids, and with all the beasts of the earth.

UPDATE:  For all of you coming over via Buzzfeed and Consumerist…welcome!  To answer your question, I didn’t take that picture of the Tombstone vending machine.  I simply found it on HAIF (referenced above) and thought it was hilarious.  The good folks at HAIF should be able to tell you more about it, where it is, how much the pizza costs, whether or not it glowed with the fiery evil of the apocalypse, etc.  Have fun!

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George Jetson Would Approve

Update (sort of):  I stumbled across this article on Serious Eats where the magic of technology has made it possible to make your own milkshake at gas stations across the country.  Yum?  That remains to be seen…

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Good service is harder and harder to find these days, in restaurants and in any other industry that relies strongly upon human capital. With that in mind, how would you feel about eliminating waitstaff altogether in favor of a touch-screen ordering system built in to your table? The technology certainly isn’t new, but this application of it is:

Ever find yourself unable to get the attention of a waiter? It can be frustrating. But soon that may be a problem of the past thanks to new tableside touch screens.

“It’s cooler placing your own order on the computer than having a waitress come up and do it,” restaurant customer Amanda Rosengarten told CBS 2 HD.

That’s because the order goes directly from your fingertips to the kitchen or bar, eliminating the possibility of human error during the transaction process. The new technology is being used at uWink, the latest offering from the founder of Chuck E. Cheese. The company said the new system is providing faster service, fewer mistakes and fewer interruptions.

“Whenever you want … that extra glass of wine or a dessert … bingo, it happens right away,” said Nolan Bushnell of uWink.

“It seems a lot more immediate. If I happen to change my mind or need an additional dish, I can order it right away even if the server is busy doing something else,” patron Julie Lightner said.

I once went to a sushi joint in Seattle whose schtick was that the sushi, sashimi, tempura, etc. was circulated throughout the restaurant via giant conveyor belts. When something passed by you that caught your fancy, you simply snagged it off the belt. The cost was determined by the color of the plates, and your tab was settled by adding your colored plates together at the end of the meal.

It effectively eliminated the need for a waiter or waitress, except for drink orders and paying your tab. That said, however, I was definitely squicked out by the possibility that someone could have fingered the food, contemplatively, and then put it back on the conveyor belt for someone else to pick up. Also, it seemed that the tables sitting towards the beginning of the conveyor belt kept snatching up all the good stuff and the people towards the end were left with plate after plate of California rolls and tamago.

But back to the item at hand…

I don’t necessarily see in-table touch-screen ordering taking the place of traditional service any time soon. I see it as more of a novelty item. Just because it eliminates human error between your order and the kitchen, it doesn’t mean that human error in the kitchen or a computer error in the system won’t still cause your order to be incorrect. And I can’t see an entire working class of employees so easily eliminated, especially since it’s one of the few industries that someone with limited education and skills can enter and make a living (not a huge living, but a living nonetheless). Also, just a thought, but how dirty would those little screens get after only a four-tops’ worth of diners? I’d want those puppies bleached down thoroughly after every table is finished…

What do you think? Do you see its future as novelty item at McDonald’s across the nation? Or do you have bigger expectations for this technology?

Nature’s Surly Bonds

Continuing yesterday’s loose theme of Food and the 1960s, Paleo-Future treats us to a glimpse of what scientists circa 1964 envisioned for our culinary future:

The general consensus seemed to be that “food”—a word that was already beginning to sound old-fashioned—was destined to break its surly bonds to Nature, float free of agriculture and hitch its future to Technology. If not literally served in a pill, the meal of the future would be fabricated “in the laboratory out of a wide variety of materials,” as one contemporary food historian predicted, including not only algae and soybeans but also petrochemicals. Protein would be extracted directly from fuel oil and then “spun and woven into ‘animal’ muscle—long wrist-thick tubes of ‘fillet steak.’ “

Yum!  Petrochemicals and fuel oil?  We were in for such a treat!  And my stomach is already grumbling at the thought of those delicious “wrist-thick tubes.”

Note:  I was going to insert a picture here of the first photo that Google Image Search turned up for “wrist-thick tubes,” but as you might imagine, they weren’t exactly savory, food-related or safe for work.