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Aruba, June 24, 2014 - On Tuesday, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse (BJRI), a chain of 151 casual dining restaurants, launched a new app that allows diners to place their orders before they arrive and pay at the end of the meal, removing the need to wait for a server to bring you a menu, take your order, and deliver the check and change. To make sure the food’s hot, the kitchen doesn’t fire up your meal until you’ve been seated.
BJ’s chief executive Gregory Trojan believes the traditional flurry of tasks handled by waiters distracts them from their more important job: being hospitable. The app, he says in an interview, aims not to reduce staff or turn servers into robots who just transport food from the kitchen to the table but to relieve them of certain duties so they can be more attentive to customers.
The larger problem Trojan hopes the app will address is speed. In traditional full-service restaurants, all that service takes time, which is bad during peak hours when turning over tables means sales. He says that by allowing customers to take care of ordering and payment themselves, the average one-hour meal is cut down to about 35 minutes. To further encourage time-strapped diners to order ahead, BJ’s puts them on a wait list to be seated once their mobile order comes in, rather than when they arrive at the restaurant.
By quickening service, Trojan also hopes to better compete with fast casual restaurants, which in recent years have lured many customers away from full-service with quality food served quickly, at lower prices. BJ’s same-store sales decreased 1.1 percent last year.