All posts by Rajiv Srivastava


It seems obvious that “fast food” restaurants will be the first to adopt self serve technology, but many fine dining ones can also gain by this

Our focus is on improving customer convenience, and, in today’s world, save them time. We are all short on time. By all means continue with waiters, cashiers for those customers who are averse to machines. But the dining experience can be improved by speeding up processes. The waiter going from the customers table to the kitchen to deliver a ticket is a huge waste of time and resource, as, in today’s world, this can be done instantly using technology

Many restaurants offer so called “fine dining”, but is it really so? Can we catch the waiter’s eye quickly when we need something? And does the waiter write down the order correctly every time? Is the waiter merely a “middle-man” between the diner and the chef? Would communication be better (and faster) by cutting down a layer of hierarchy and let the consumer send instructions directly to the chef?

In a typical restaurant, the waiter writes down the drinks orders, and the starters, then enters it on the restaurant pos system, then gives it to the bartender and finally to the kitchen. In quite a few cases, because the waiter is going to the kitchen to pick another customer’s order, the new order is first delivered to the kitchen, then the 2nd customers order is picked up and delivered to them, and finally the ticket goes to the bartender. As a result, in some cases, starters arrive before the drinks!

A self-ordering app, placed either on the diners phone by downloading, or on dedicated displays either at each table, or, since they will not be used continuously, shared between a group of 2 to 4 tables, enables the customer to quickly place their orders at any time, which are instantly transmitted to the kitchen. The waiter transforms from being a time-wasting “middle-man” to a “guide” who helps explain dishes, suggest choices, expedite.

And after the meal, an often interminable wait for the bill. You ask for the bill quickly because one of the kids is getting cranky, and the waiter smilingly says sure, but then proceeds to first clear the dirty dishes from your table, then cleans the table, then comes back with the menu to ask, very sweetly, whether we would like some dessert, we again say no, the baby is about to cry, just get the bill. Sure sir, in a minute, then, en route to the cashier, gets distracted by another customer. And we are seething.

Would have made for a much nicer experience if we could have got the bill ourselves on the self-serve kiosk, paid by swiping our card or by PayTm or similar, and left. And the restaurant would get a table free a few minutes earlier pleasing the next customer, and incidentally making more money by letting the restaurant serve more customers in the same time

Since many customers do not want to download multiple apps on their phone to avoid clutter or for privacy, dedicated self-ordering terminals, either tab based or 24×7 full size display based, would be a win-win solution.

More information on Self-ordering kiosks at

Metal or plastic for monitors ?

Metal or plastic for monitors ?

Each year, 12 to 15 million displays (LCD monitors and TVs) are imported into India, which will generate a staggering 20,000 tons of non-recyclable plastic waste every year.

The plastic enclosure of these displays (back, sides, and partially on the front), weighs around 0.5Kg for small displays (below 20”), going up 3 to 4kg for larger displays. Typically, most displays last only 5 to 10 years, after which they are scrapped, and, at an average of 1.5kg per display, generating 20,000 tons of plastic waste.

To put this into perspective, it is estimated that in India approximately 5 million tons of plastic waste is generated each year, (or 14,000 per day), so the amount generated from scrap of only displays is equal to one and a half days generation of all plastic waste

The plastic waste from displays creates more of a problem since, as the plastic used is mostly ABS, it simply ends up in landfills. Theoretically, ABS can be recycled by mixing a small percentage of scrap ABS in the production of new ABS. But the total production of ABS in India last year was just around 120,000 tons and even using 5 to 10% scrap, can absorb only 12,000 tons, which does not even absorb the ABS waste from displays, leave alone all the other ABS waste being generated from other users like automobiles

So the only place the ABS waste from displays is going to go is into landfills, damaging the environment for a long, long time

What can be done? Use steel instead of plastic.

Steel can be easily recycled and steel mills can use 10 to 20% scrap in the production of fresh steel. If steel is used instead of plastic, the weight of steel scrap generated from displays will be at most 100,000 tones (empirically 5 times more weight than plastic). Since India produces 100 million tons of steel each year, the steel scrap generated by displays is only 0.1% of the country’s production, and this scrap can easily be absorbed. On the other hand, ABS scrap from only displays amounts to almost 15% of the production of fresh ABS and cannot be absorbed

The main raw material for ABS, being a plastic, is based on crude oil which is mostly imported. Most of the raw material for steel is available within India.

It seems to make environmental and economic sense for India to switch to steel enclosures for displays

Should Children use touch screens ?

Adults spend 1 to 4 hours a day looking at their mobile screens, so it is natural for small children to want to imitate their parents and use a phone or tab. Imitating is natural, and touch screen devices so ubiquitous, that it is only a matter of time before a child starts using them, copying all the adults Is it a good thing ?

Some parents give their children too much screen time, using their phone/tab as an electronic baby sitter – Either the phone is given to distract the child while parents finish some “important” task, or to bribe the child – if you sit at the table quietly and eat your meal, you can play with the phone

On the other hand, totally banning screen time may only serve to increase desire to use a screen and feel like an “adult”, causing children to use devices surreptitiously, either their parents or others.

A few parents can strike a balance, permitting restricted screen time, with the child allowed to handle a phone for a short time or to watch under supervision those TV shows that are educational.

But if the child uses the touchscreen simply to navigate from one movie/show to the next, then the touchscreen is being used just like a remote, and the interactive features of the touchscreen are not utilised

Is there another path ?

A touchscreen can be beneficial if it is used as the interactive device that it is – for example:
There are so many games played years ago that encouraged experiential learning – fit solid shapes into their holes, jigsaws, using an abacus, connect the dots, painting – almost all of these can be done easily on a touchscreen device. And since children get bored easily, simply add a new program. No problem about where to store “older” toys !

• show a red colour and ask the child to choose the name of the colour from a list
• visually explain the concept of numbers – drag and drop one marble at a time into the box, then after each drop ask them to choose how many marbles are in the box
• recognise shapes – drag a ball to a round hole, or a cube to a square hole, fit irregular shapes like jigsaws
• touch an animal or a musical instrument to hear what it sounds like
• live videos of a cow being milked, or a fish swimming or a bird flying in slow motion enable us to grasp quickly concepts that are difficult to explain on paper
• and many more

What is needed is a software app that, while enabled, prevents access to any other program on the phone/tab, and gives access to only interactive educational experiences developed specially for children. Or use a touchscreen tab loaded with no application except interactive educational software.

Touchscreens in car dashboards

Many new cars are now coming with touchscreen controls for infotainment systems

While touchscreens are good for most purposes, are they a good idea for in-dash infotainment systems?

With the older systems, a radio channel could be selected using pre-set buttons, or by twirling a knob – easily done by “feel”, without taking eyes off the road.

But with touchscreens this cannot be done without taking eyes of the road, as the touch buttons, being small, take time to be located

Touch screens, when the car is stationary, offer multiple advantages –  browsing,  navigating maps, zooming, shopping, and many others. A touchscreen is also a must to use all the data in a connected car.

But while in motion, touchscreens are best used along with physical buttons, from a safety perspective. We wonder whether there is any data on safety in cars with touchscreens ?

Touchscreens and bacteria

Recently a few articles have appeared stating that bacteria was found on touchscreens being used for self-ordering in restaurants.

But instead of recoiling in horror from the kiosk, we should keep in mind that there are many more surfaces which could have even more bacteria – the door knob you touched while entering the restaurant, the chair handle touched to sit, the currency note exchanged with the parking attendant. Any contact with any person or object leaves us exposed to contamination with bacteria.

What can we do? Restaurants keep cleaning all surfaces with disinfectants; as an additional precaution we can wash our hands or use a hand sanitiser before touching food or even our faces

And keep using the touchscreen to order your food. It is faster, and more fun