Monday, March 17, 2008

iPhone App Ideas: A Target Rich Environment

I was watching a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain's: No Reservations on the Travel Channel this morning, and came up with an idea for an application.

Bourdain described the process in which orders are conveyed through a restaurant: customer tells waiter, waiter writes on order slip, waiter goes to waiter station and inputs order into terminal, order gets directed to the appropriate kitchen personnel. I was struck by how the input terminal involved bringing up a diagram of the appropriate table, and inputting the order for each chair around the circle. This seemed something easily transferable to an iPod Touch style interface.

I'm imagining a situation where the customer tells the waiter, the waiter touches on the table in a map of the restaurant, touches on the seat, is given a series of menu choices corresponding to things on the menu, touches complete, and the order is sent directly to the kitchen. Maybe the customer orders shrimp and the kitchen just ran out of shrimp, the software would show an alert.

In this scenario, the waiter only has to enter the data once, there is less chance of transcription errors, the restaurant does not have to set aside valuable floor space for the waiter station, and status information is more current. Presumably, the people best positioned to make such software is whoever makes the current restaurant terminals, but some enterprising types could get into the business right now while the going is good, by providing an entire Mac/iPod based solution which incorporated the whole system: data entry, accounting, kitchen display screens, etc. If anyone uses this idea, cash is always an appropriate gift.

It would be nice if Apple were to come up with an industrial version of the iPod Touch that was not worth stealing as a media player for specialized situations like this.