Digital living: Smartphone app replaces Beijing restaurant staff

(CNN) — Some diners complain that smartphones are ruining conversations at restaurants.

But one eatery in Beijing actually requires them to get a table. There are no hosts, no waiters, no cashiers, and customers use their phones to place their order.

It’s linking mobile technology with this city’s deep love of food.

When you enter Renrenxiang restaurant, the first thing you’ll notice about this is there are no waiters. They’ve been replaced with an app, but not just any app.

WeChat is the most popular messaging app in China, with hundreds of millions of people using it. The restaurant uses the app to put up its menu and gives the customer a number that will be called out on speakers in minutes.

One place there are staff is in the kitchen. A team of chefs turn the digital orders into the customers’ lunches.

Restaurant owner Liu Zhen is looking at cutting his overheads even more. “There will be four no’s in this restaurant, that is no waitress, no cashier, no merchandiser, and no chef,” he said. “I did this because I’m following the technology development trend in China.”

In an age where smartphones are signaling the end of face-to-face conversation around the dining table, why not take it one step further and take out the need to speak to a waiter, too?

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