The Harvest Grill manager Bruce Macklin takes an order on an iPad using TouchBistro.

Restaurant servers have it tough. They’re expected to dash from table to table, take orders and punch them in, and then run food to the right customer, all while maintaining a pleasant demeanor in the hopes of placating hungry clientele impatient for their meal to arrive.

Software developer Alex Barrotti thinks he can put an end to server stress, and he’s using an unlikely tool: the iPad. Barrotti has created an app called TouchBistro Pro Edition that allows servers to tap orders onto an iPad and then wirelessly transmit them directly to the kitchen while remaining tableside. 

“The main goal is to increase the speed of service,” says the Torontonian of his invention, which is either strapped to the wrist or tucked into an apron pocket. The new system is debuting this week at The Harvest Grill restaurant inside the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, on until Sunday at Exhibition Place.

“I can be standing here still talking to you, meanwhile your salad is being made,” says Harvest Grill manager Bruce Macklin, who describes the app as “pretty slick.”

When customers at the swanky restaurant want something, the server simply taps the menu items on the screen and hits send. The order is immediately sent directly to the kitchen, leaving the server free to continue chatting or go wait on other tables.

Can’t decide if you want the fish or the rib-eye steak? Servers can pull up full screen photos of all the dishes, so diners never have to ponder what a meal will look like when it actually appears.

And the servers seem to like it, though it takes some getting used to. “There’s definitely a learning curve,” says Harvest Grill server Leslie Lindsay, who doesn’t use a cellphone and is used to the pen and paper method.

Barrotti acknowledges it’s a new concept, but one he claims is already catching on. He says TouchBistro’s original app, which is used to place orders on stationary iPads, has already been downloaded more than 3,000 times in countries around the world and is used in about 30 restaurants just in Toronto. “It won’t be long,” he says, “before servers toting iPads are everywhere.”

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