This is a story of what happens when Hi Tech meets a bunch of senior citizens out for a relaxing evening. This month we decided to steer clear of Tampa once we heard it was Bollywood weekend. So Carmel Cafe in Sarasota was our choice.
Let me start off by saying the food was wonderful - and that's really all that matters - or is it? What about the experience? And here is where we had a bit of a disconnect.
Ever seen one of these?
Brace yourself cause this is the wave of the future and I'm not quite ready for it. Our very charming waiter brought four iPads to our table and explained brightly we'd be ordering from them. He also gave us paper menus but did his best to dissuade us from using them. Now every one of us has an iPhone so its not as if we are technology deficient, but truthfully the order process wasn't made any smoother with these.
PRO: you can see actual photos of the food you are going to order (sort of like when you go to the Chinese take out place and they have them hung on the wall). One hopes the actual dish will come out looking just like the photo and at these prices they better!.
CON: the iPad is heavy; you have to wonder if it was disinfected since the last user; you have to share them since its not practical to put 8 iPads down on the table, so that takes longer; the waiter still had to make adjustments for separate checks and by the way, he lost out a bit since the iPad didn't automatically add 18%-20% gratuity which would be normal for parties of eight.
I did a little research on this new technology and most of the reviews echoed our own - that overall they weren't worth it. And there's a problem with theft - our waiter explained that each iPad had a GPS so the restaurant could track down wayward equipment. Many restaurants have ceased using them on their outdoor dining areas to limit the risk of theft. Again, is it all worth it? Don't we have enough people of all ages glued to their electronic devices in solitary trances? The purpose of our monthly Great Escape is to enjoy the company of our friends over a glass of wine and a satisfying meal. Now they're trying to take that away from us in the name of progress!
A note about the service - our waiter was perfectly sweet and accommodating. Drinks and appetizers appeared in short order and were quickly followed by the salads. But I was only half way through my salad when the entrees were laid before me. And I'm a fast eater! When we were settling up the check, hubby asked the waiter, "do you realize its less than an hour since we first sat down? Frankly, we feel rushed." And its not like they had a long line of people waiting to get in and needed our table - the place was empty. So did the technology speed things up to our disadvantage? It would seem so. The order went so fast from the table to the kitchen that wham.....it was served at lightning speed. So for service the waiter gets an A but the iPad/Kitchen gets a C.
As for the venue itself, it was very pretty as these photos will show and I especially like our table set up in front of a gigantic wall of wine.
We didn't stick around for dessert as we'd been invited back to one of our homes for good old fashioned ice cream sundaes and coffee. Hey, have you ever heard of 'wet walnuts'? They're a dessert topping made from walnuts and maple syrup. A nice way to end the evening!