The Way a Fast Food Restaurant Should Work
Here is an excerpt from a Wired magazine article about the next generation of fast food restaurant. It gave me goosebumps.
“Unlike the sit-down bistros where gourmet food is generally prepared and served, Lyfe sees each brussels sprout as merely a cog in a vast clockwork, a system that is set into motion as a customer approaches the counter, gives their name, and places an order. Once that order is sent electronically to the kitchen, a cashier hands the customer a coaster. RFID strips beneath every table pick up the signal from the coaster and send it back to the kitchen. That’s how the runner—someone other than the person who took your order—knows where you are sitting, what you have ordered, and your name.
Now that the order has gone into the kitchen, the software-based cooking system kicks in. It’s smart enough to separate the elements of your order and send each of them to the monitor that hangs above the relevant food-prep station. The flatbread maker sees flatbread orders; the pantry chef, who makes all the salads and desserts, sees the salad order; the rôtisseur at the broiler station—you get the picture. So everything everyone needs to cook shows up in a queue, and the chefs each hit a plastic button beneath the screen to signal that they have begun. When they’re done, they press a button that “bumps” the food order to the “quarterback,” who gathers the finished product and puts it on a plate with all the other stuff you want to eat.
Take that free-range chicken dish. Just as in a high-end kitchen in Chicago or San Francisco, the rôtisseur here cooks the chicken breast at a different spot from the one the legumier uses to sauté the brussels sprouts, squash, and cranberries. Of course, the two elements—the chicken and the vegetables—have different cooking times. Lyfe’s software is ready for such complication, though, and sequences the timing. In the case of salmon and potatoes, say, the fish takes five minutes while the tubers take two. So the rôtisseur receives the salmon order three minutes before the potatoes order appears on the legumier’s screen. Same for the chicken and brussels sprouts. It’s all finished at the same time and plated together by the quarterback. Then the runner picks it up, heads to your table, and says hi, Fred.”