The Customer Is Always the Customer

Only more so, perhaps.

The idea behind restaurants as I see it is that you go to eat food.  That’s oversimplification, of course.  You go to eat food, but it’s also an experiential issue.  We like some restaurants more than others, even if the food is comparable.  But the tradition seems to be that regardless of how well we identify with a restaurant, we are in fact identifying with a restaurant.  Where we choose to eat and spend our money is an indication of who we are, but it’s also true that restaurants have a particular personality, and that we choose that personality because of any number of reasons that are more personal to us.  
But what if what the restaurant offered was not a personality and experience that we could choose to identify with or not, but rather a customized experience?  What if a restaurant could personalize itself to various different patrons.  The same food would be served, in the same building, but the point of contact in the server would be customized?  What if the restaurant identified with us, rather than the traditional other way around?
It’s a common joke about how many aspiring actors and actresses there are in Los Angeles waiting tables, ready at a moment’s notice to slip a script under a producer’s salad plate or break into a bit of improvisation.  But what if that was their job, rather than a necessary side talent?  What if the servers were hired not just for their ability to take orders, deliver food to tables, and look after customers well, but because they could alter their persona from table to table?
Taking mom & dad from Boise out to dinner?  Ask for the server to be extra folksy or down to earth.  Want to impress your date?  Ask the server to pretend they know you as a talented writer or actor, or to demonstrate awe at your table manners or knowledge of early Peruvian salads.  Given the miracle of high-speed access to almost any information, what couldn’t a talented server/performer pull off in terms of a convincing role?
It would be an amazing feat of acting, to be sure.  But it would also be a further interesting comment on our culture.  If we grow too accustomed to everything being personalized for our tastes, what won’t we expect to be personalized for our tastes?  
Granted, this is just speculation and dreaming at this point in time (and not an original dream by me, even, but I’ve lost the link to a blurb somebody else wrote on the idea).  But it’s not a far stretch to think that we’ll see this sort of thing popping up all over the place sometime soon.  iEat?  iDine?  iStrant?  Hmmm…anyone have some investment capital?  

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