The Day A Machine Managed My Dinner Order

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It wasn’t exactly world-domination, but it felt good to order food effortlessly, without saying a word to anyone.

I was done with a late meeting, and I needed a quick dinner before heading home. The rain was pelting (thank you December, see you next year, Sumatran haze) and I found myself at Five Square on One Pickering Street.

The casual dining spot was lively, filled with post-work executives thirsty for a relaxing pint. The lighting was warm, the ceiling was high and the décor in the spacious place was comfortable. I call it Nordic-CBD. Yes, I think I just made that up.

There were more than a couple types of beers on tap. What more could a bloke want?

Five_2

An earnest two-man band was playing acoustic covers, and the unpretentious crowd was relaxed. It was the perfect place for a quiet bite to recharge.

The finger food and dishes on the tables around me looked inspiring, and I decided to nose around to see what was available.

Sushi Platter

There’s the ever-popular Teppei Yamashita kaisendons (sashimi rice bowls) and curry rice – known for their value and great taste, and there was a variety of miso pork noodles, Korean salads, fresh pizzas and Cinqo Tapas, a culinary diversity you’re not going to find anywhere else anytime soon.

Prices per item were in the $5 to $25 ballpark.

kaisendon stall_five

Unexpected Highlight Of The Evening

I looked for a bar manager to take my order for kaisendon, but there was no one around. I approached a wait staff, who pointed at an ekiosk in front of the Japanese stall.

“It’s all self-service here,” he said, “you can order anything from the menu there.”

I was pleasantly surprised. Wasn’t this an upmarket food court? But what he just said sounded really futuristic. Was I being pranked?

Payment_Nets

I approached the ekiosks. Each of the food stalls has two of them. They looked like ATMs (without the promise of giving me money), except they were touchscreens, and the easy-to-read screens were filled with photos of the menu items. I was led by my hunger so I tapped a bunch of orders in.

Stall Front

Next, the ekiosk asked for my mobile number – so it could alert me via SMS to pick up my hot food as soon as it was ready. I was thankful I didn’t have to hold onto a cumbersome beeping UFO device that won’t stop vibrating. How quaint and efficient!

randomdishes

Strangely, despite not having a human being take my dinner order, the whole experience felt seamless, and easy, even.

Conveniently, I was given the option of paying with cash, card or Nets. All three payment options were available at the ekiosks, and I was done in 30 seconds flat, with a receipt printed out promptly. It was that simple.

Yes

How’s that for an interactive dinner experience?

Tommy also tweets and instagrams @tommywee.