Cheesecake Factory Discoveries

Cheesecake Factory Discoveries.

When you make your pilgrimage to Silicon Valley, and want to visit the Palo Alto (admit it, if you're a geek, you gotta come and see Palo Alto at least once in your life and University Ave is the epicenter of the tech world) you're eventually going to get hungry.

The new Cheesecake Factory on University Ave has already become a leading place to meet geeks. Ross Mayfield, CEO of Social Text, told me tonight that it's his wife's favorite place to eat.

This 300-seat restaurant, which is a few doors down from the first Apple store, already has waiting lines on a Monday night of 45 minutes or more. (I've been to three Cheesecake Factories, and this is a standard experience. They don't accept reservations, so you need to be prepared for long waits).

So, where did Ross bump into me? Well, right near the computer terminals that run the restaurant, of course (I was watching the staff use the computer terminals there, I was trying to learn about things that Longhorn might do to make the restaurant even more productive). Where else would you find a geek in a Cheesecake Factory?

My wife and son thought I was checking out the female greeters. Heh, that's funny. I actually was drawn to the screen by how the female greeters were carressing their LCD monitors. It was quite sexual, at least for this geek. There are two greeter's stations at the front of the restaurant. Two greeters were standing there, and both were running their hands up and down the sides of the LCD in a quite caring manner. It was almost that they had become emotionally attached to their terminals.

And I could see why these terminals were getting all that attention. They were positioned at just the right height to be touched by the waitstaff. The UI was manipulated completely by touching the screen with your finger. No mouse. No keyboard. Just some really big tabs along the top that would bring up various things like customer lists, table maps (very nice graphics that told the users what the state of the tables were instantly).

Every 20 seconds or so, another party would come up to the front counters and try to get a table. Or, previously-checked in customers asked what the status of their table is. “Your table is being cleared right now, you'll be seated in a couple of minutes,” one of the greeters told someone as I watched her finger the screen.

I saw her pull maps up of the restaurant. Select guest's names. Setup beepers for newcomers. All with great efficiency. Every interaction with a guest took just a few seconds. The turnover in this place is truly amazing.

Eventually I figured out what the systems were running on: Windows XP. How did I know? A dialog box popped up with XP's standard blue gradient title bar.

In one of the few breaks, I asked some questions:

Me: “How do you like this computer system?”

Greeter: “It makes this the most organized restaurant I've ever worked in.”

Me: “Does it ever crash?”

Greeter: “Not yet.”

Me: “Do they use this system in all Cheesecake Factories?”

Greeter: “Yes.”

Me: “How long did it take you to learn this system?”

Greeter: “A few hours.”

Me: “Do you know who built it?”

Greeter: “No, I'm sorry, I don't, but you might call our corporate headquarters and find out that way.”

Anyway, I had some quick talking to do with my wife. She didn't know whether to be mad at me for being a geek and not paying attention to her, or for being a man and checking out the waitstaff.

Come on Maryam, I +DO+ have my priorities. A hot LCD that can be touched wins out everytime! 😉

[The Scobleizer Weblog]

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