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'TextMyFood' Gets Your Waiter's Attention, via Text Message

text my foodThe next time you find yourself trying to get the attention of a flighty waitress at a crowded restaurant, you might want to put down your hand and pull out your cell phone. Some restaurants have begun implementing a program called 'TextMyFood,' a service that allows patrons to directly communicate with their servers via text message. With 'TextMyFood,' customers can place orders, ask questions, or command the attention of a given server, all with a few taps of their thumbs.

Servers using the text-based system admit that it's convenient for busy shifts, but some worry that it may depersonalize the dining experience. "As a server, I would rather want to go to the guest and talk to them face to face and ask them what they would like instead of getting it through a computer," said Kristina Henry, a server at Charlie's Kitchen, a bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts that recently implemented 'TextMyFood.'

'TextMyFood' president Bob Nilsson, however, insists that his service is designed to make the experience more efficient -- not less personal. "It's not eliminating human contact," Nilsson told NPR. "There's always a server at the other end. You just want to have that contact sooner. If you can't see them and can't make that contact, rather than waving your arms or getting up, just use the natural communication and let them know what you need."

Yet, the system's biggest asset -- accessibility -- might also be its biggest liability. With servers now just a text message away, it's not unusual for some customers to abuse the system, and flood their waiters with often inappropriate messages. "I've gotten, 'Glasses are sexy.' I've gotten, 'Two of us need something and three of us need your number,'" said Joshua DeCosta, another server at Charlie's. In response, some establishments have decided to end the service once the alcohol flows more freely, while others simply disable it for particularly rowdy customers. Text messages may make Friday night shifts more manageable, but they clearly can't do much to make drunk patrons any less obnoxious.

Tags: cellphones, dining, food, food and drink, FoodAndDrink, order, restaurants, server, service, sms, text, Texting, TextMessaging, textmyfood, top, waitress