Check, Please!

By Tomasky, Michael | Newsweek, March 22, 2013 | Go to article overview
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Check, Please!


Tomasky, Michael, Newsweek


Byline: Michael Tomasky

America's restaurant technology is worse than Polynesia's.

It happened again not long ago. We went out to dinner and had a perfectly pleasant meal. We were sated. Ready to go. Then we sat. And I wondered what I always wonder: Who among my fellow Americans enjoys this ritual? You ask for the check. The waiter walks away. He brings it. He walks away again. You put your card in the little sleeve. You wait. The waiter picks it up. He walks away again. Eventually, after reciting the specials at one table and opening a bottle of wine at another, he returns. And finally, 20 minutes after you were ready to leave, the restaurant is ready for you to leave.

Within those 20 minutes is contained not just the customer's inconvenience, but a national crisis and disgrace. America suffers from a terrifying restaurant technology gap. Throughout much of the world, this tedious ritual has been dispensed with. At tables from London to Istanbul, from Casablanca to French Polynesia, when the diner is ready to leave, the waiter reaches for her or his handheld device, runs the credit card, hands over the receipt, and that's it. Gone in 60 seconds.

I thought Americans were the people in such a hurry all the time. Aren't the French that languorous race of idlers who sit in St-Germain cafes all day, knocking back kirs and smoking Gitanes? No, they are not! Because a few years ago, when I needed to scram from a brasserie near the Comedie-Francaise to catch my plane, I was out of there faster than you could say Jerry Lewis.

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