12.3.2013: Instagram / Applebees


When You Instagram Your Restaurant Receipts

‘Tis the season for good-natured, old-fashioned hope and happiness, unless you read pretty much anything on the internet, where everyone appears to be lying. There’s that woman who wrote the viral poverty essay, parts of which may or may not be true. There’s Elan, Bachelor producer and complete fabricator of the “Dianne in 7A” story. More relevant here, there’s the New Jersey waitress who claimed to be stiffed by a family who didn’t approve of her sexual orientation — even posting photographic proof of the receipt. Except now, the family in question claims the waitress made the whole thing up, and the restaurant has suspended her pending some sort of resolution.

On the flip side, an anonymous Instagram account, @TipsForJesus posts photos of extremely large (like $500 to $1,000 large) tips left on otherwise average checks around Los Angeles. And, of course, there’s the Kansas City-area post that likely inspired at least one of these, when a waiter was refused a tip by customers andinstead received a disapproving note. That one, it appears, is legit at least.

So. Good? Bad? Somewhere in-between? The problem here is that Instagram and its ilk provide a huge platform for issues in need of attention. The problem here is that said platform is easy to exploit and near impossible to prove. So we blindly trust what we see, forgetting the internet is full of liars willing to literally take money from strangers. Sadly, I’m afraid this kind of creative exposure  is about to become one of those great things that’s ruined by a few bad apples. Bah humbug indeed.


Just Give Them What They Want

illustration by April V. Walters

Do you care if a restaurant is on your side? It’s apparently a thing, at least according to the Shake Shack CEO,captured by Fast Company calling the Madison Square “Shack Cam” a way for people to decide if they have the time to come to the restaurant and wait in a (often seriously long) line. According to him, “hospitality occurs when you feel like I’m on your side.”

Plenty of other restaurants around the world have replicated this idea; most recently the Dumbo Food Truck Line Cam debuted in Brooklyn. Silly or not, customers use these as a way to plan their time, and I can’t imagine this trend moving in the other direction — at least for these sorts of places. But at least the idea originates in hospitality; something about that just seems so nice. Right?


Tableside Digital Ordering System Coming to Applebees

Hardware-software provider E a la Carte announced a deal with Applebees, introducing 100,000 tableside tablets to restaurants next year. The tablets display menu items and information (including photos), and allow diners to order via touchscreen. They allow you to play games while you wait for your food (I’m laughing now because this reminds me of that peg pyramid game they left on tables at Friendly’s when I was a kid). And they allow you to close your tab and receive a bill when you’re done.

After testing the program at 30 Applebees restaurants, the chain concluded that customers like them because they’re efficient and offer control. Staff likes them because tip options are built right in (no math for the customer!) But will this technology fundamentally change the restaurant experience? Clearly, Applebees isn’t the pinnacle of service in the restaurant industry, but remember that scene in Office Space when Jennifer Aniston goes to work at Chotchkie’s? I mean, what’s a fast-casual restaurant without its flare-covered, chatty waitstaff?

Jokes aside, I can see why this is a win for Applebees the company. I’m just curious to see the new standard of fast-casual that emerges from a digital-based ordering system. My grandma is going to be so confused.


The Proposed Ban on e-cigarettes

The New York City Council has introduced an initiative to add e-cigarettes to the list of smoke-generating itemsnot allowed in restaurants. Technically, these vaporizers do contain nicotine. But I don’t think they pose the same secondhand smoke risk as cigarettes — nor the same annoying odor that can completely gross out those dining around you. Earlier this year, Bloomberg Businessweek published a piece asserting that restaurateurs and managers didn’t mind the devices, but the City Council says since they look like, and are used like cigarettes, they’re a problem.

If these things don’t produce any sort of secondhand risk, I really don’t see the problem. I’d rather an e-cig in a restaurant than the glow, ringtones, and annoying buzzing of twenty cellphones. Can we ban those, too?


  • Insanely lucky Lucky Peach Chris Ying goes to Sweden for Christmas in this amazing video — Lucky Peach + Dark Rye 
  • LA restaurant charging for leaving food on your plate at all-you-can-eat nights — LA Times
  • The 44 worst people in every restaurant — Thrillist 

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