We're walking down Regent Street in Piccadilly wondering where to eat. I want Thai food but reluctantly we walk into a Sushi restaurant not knowing that we are about to encounter a brand new experience vis-à-vis dining out: Inamo.
Two Oxford graduates were dissatisfied with having to wait around in restaurants for waiters to take their order, add new things to the order, bring their bill and so on and so forth. So what did they do? They opened a restaurant without the unnecessary addition of waiting staff.
How does that work?
Projected directly onto your table from above is an interface resembling a computer screen. A circular touch-pad built into the table's corner allows you to control a cursor and peruse the food and drinks menu which appear elegantly from cartoon icons.
Like all authentic Japanese restaurants there are pictures of the food as well as descriptions on this virtual menu which you can scroll through and whose thumbnail size images expand with a click.
When you're done with ordering, you send the request to the kitchen at the touch of a button. Say what? It doesn't end there: if you want to see a summary of your group's bill including your portion of it, it's on the choice of options. Want to check out what's going down in the kitchen? You guessed it, it's on the menu: a real-time video-link of the chef appears for all to see.
You can even choose the visual theme of your table top: bamboo shoots, flowers, pebbles - I think there were over a dozen themes to choose from. Can't decide? Well, then hit "random shuffle" and the table theme will change every two minutes. Ready to leave? just hit the "ask for bill" button on the menu.
I wonder why this sort of technology is not more widespread? It makes life just that little bit more convenient: waiting is not my forte.
Could Inamo be improved?
It's a pretty neat experience but yes, there are a few niggling points that I have.
Firstly, the camera into the kitchen gives fuzzy pictures and it would be good if the camera roamed from one corner of the kitchen to another so that we could see everything the chef is up to.
The menu offers a list of things to do in the vicinity after the meal, however, the options are rather limited, and it is not interactive (but then I guess we would be asking for an internet connection and the birth of the iTable).
All minor points but every good entrepreneur is always looking at ways of taking their business further so I'm sure these two Oxford chums will appreciate the feedback.
If you haven't been to Inamo, book a table now. No, I'm not getting paid for the recommendation, I genuinely liked the place!