Taking the 'wait' out of 'waiter!'

New paging systems take the 'wait' out of 'waiter!'

By Francine Russo, Business 2.0 Magazine

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Even the best restaurant employees don't have eyes in the backs of their heads. The ESP wireless system may be the next best thing -- it connects staffers to diners and one another. ESP will roll out later this year at 84 restaurants, including those from the Applebee's, T.G.I. Friday's, and Fatz Cafe chains.

The waiter wears a Dick Tracy-style wrist device. He hands you a small disc, which you slip into a cell-phone-size hub on the table. When you click on the hub, his watch vibrates and summons him to your table. The kitchen buzzes him to pick up your food; he alerts the busboy when you leave.

Privately held ESP Systems, in Charlotte, N.C., is the brainchild of Devin Green, a former investment banker angry with slow restaurant service. "ESP empowers diners," he says. The 200,000 full-service restaurants in the United States could offer a lot of empowerment to ESP too. Subscription costs are based on the number of restaurants and size of waitstaff.

"I would get this in a minute," says Lloyd Gordon, president of GEC Consultants in Skokie, Ill. "Restaurants rely on a helter-skelter combination of a kitchen lightboard, a waiter pager, a tabletop lamp, or nothing at all." Chain restaurants, which put a premium on speed, seem to agree. ESP Systems has grown from a one-man band to a company with 19 employees in just two years.

Green won't disclose his revenue but says he expects a profit by 2008. For now he owns the market and says restaurants are just the start: Hospitals and casinos are calling too. Soon there could be no need for Vegas patrons to slow down on that slot machine to flag the cocktail waitress.


1. Diner presses button at his table.

2. Waiter's watch buzzes and shows table number.

3. Kitchen signals waiter when food is ready. Top of page

To send a letter to the editor about this story, click here.