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Because Restaurant & Wireless Service "Ain't What It Should Be"
A Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup called E La Carte is hoping to improve the experience of ordering food at restaurants. They have created an iPad that lets you order and pay right at your table without using a waiter.  How many times have you said, "Wow the food was great but the service really stunk?"  We seem to do that a lot here in LA where flaky people and actor / waiters are a "dime a dozen."  I wouldn't might seeing the restaurant industry do away with the 20% tip rule and bake it into the price of food items.  Restaurant service and wireless service just ain't what it used to be.

The iPad app works like this: The company uses tablet computers that have credit-card readers attached. You select what you want to eat and add items to a cart. Depending on the restaurant's preferences, the console could show you nutritional information, ingredients lists, and photographs. You can make special requests, like "dressing on the side" or "quintuple bacon." Just add it on the console, and wait for the waiter to bring it to your table. When you're through with your meal, you pay on the console, splitting the bill item by item if you wish and paying however you want. And you can have your receipt emailed to you.

All this is wonderful but requires the restaurant to have quality free WiFi access on the premises and its not likely that 4G or 3G will will word indoors. It would surprise me to see location based advertising try and get into this game. The company is currently rolling the product out after two years of development, testing, fundraising, and manufacturing. 20 restaurants have signed up and many more nationally have expressed interest.  This seems like a great adjunct business for a company like Boingo (Nasdaq: WIFI) to think about in the future.

What is not clear to me is does the restaurant provide the iPad for use or can the restaurant patron download the iPad app from the App store?  This to me would make more sense to manage costs and give early adopters some free coupons or promotions to promote the use.  

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