The New Age of Dining Out

Harvard Square restaurants keep up with technological changes that advance customer service

iPads at Au Bon Pain
Kerry M. Flynn and Xi Yu

A touchscreen gadget the size of a Moleskine notebook sits propped up at the end of the table at Uno Chicago Grill. It’s not on every table, but certain returning customers ask to be seated where they’re placed.

During the busy lunch service at Au Bon Pain, employees greet customers and take customized sandwich orders using iPads. While customers wait for their sandwiches to be made, they can purchase a bowl of soup or order a freshly tossed salad.

A new iPhone application allows commuters to order and pay before even arriving at Zoe’s. The order is prepared and ready for the customer on the counter for a quick grab and go.

In a world of smartphones, iPads, and other quickly advancing mobile technologies, many restaurants in Harvard Square have devised innovative ways to keep up. Integrating new technology into their ordering systems, these cutting-edge restaurants seek the help of new devices to provide faster, simpler, and even more secure service.



A longtime restaurant in Harvard Square, the Au Bon Pain at 1360 Mass. Ave. began using iPads to take orders at the end of January.

“When there’s a rush, the manager will shout for an iPad and then someone will jump to the front with one and start taking orders,” says Michael H. Cleland, general manager of the Harvard Square location.

Before this system, which has been available at the Kendall location for several months, Au Bon Pain customers wrote their orders by checking off a form at the sandwich counter during busy dining hours.

This new system saves the stores about 1,200 full sheets of paper a day, Cleland says, and provides a more efficient and cleaner way to take orders since restaurant workers are the only ones touching the iPads.

“It’s all about engaging with the guest, and we’ve done that by pairing service with this new technology,” Cleland says.

About a minute away at the new Clover Food Lab on 7 Holyoke St., servers use iPod Touches for taking orders. Like Au Bon Pain, the servers greet patrons at the door and send the orders behind the counter using a touch-based system.

“Some customers call it getting food at the Apple store,” says Clover General Manager Vincenzo Pileggi.

Clover has recently begun testing an electronic white board that will automatically update preparation time for each menu item.

“Don’t look too closely,” the note at the top of the electronic board warned on Saturday. “Hoping that someday it will soon be operational, but right now I’m just programming it. Those ‘min’ beside the menu items? That is the average serve time for the past 10 minutes for that item. Cool, huh?”