I’m not talking about Japanese cat, dog, owl, snake or goat cafés, no, I mean a totally different café experience I’ve had here in China.
There’s a café chain in Chongqing called BG café. It looks like your standard ‘Western’ café in China, and is complete with an eclectic playlist, ranging from Justin Beiber’s Christmas* album to an orchestra and deep house.
So what’s so different about this café?
Well firstly, when you sit down, you’re not given a traditional menu, you’re asked by a (very persistent) waitress to scan the QR code on your table to find the menu and order through their Wechat account. When you scan the QR code, the system knows where you’re sitting, so a waitress will bring you your drink/food to your table and you don’t have to move once you’ve sat down. Because Wechat can be linked to your bank account, you can even pay your bill through your mobile phone.
This is quite convenient if you’re on the third floor, as the only cashier desk is on the ground floor but it kind of takes away from some of the dining experience. I ate lunch a couple of times there before, and I wanted to talk to a waiter/waitress about what was in the food, or request the pasta without meat, but was unable to as there wasn’t a ‘request to chat with a waiter’ help button on the menu.
It made me think about the future of dining in restaurants and cafés, and I think this model will probably be copied in other Chinese dining places as companies want you to follow them on social media, order and pay using a mobile device. It saves so many steps in regards to training staff and physical labour:
- they don’t have to learn the ingredients or items on a menu
- they’re customer service level doesn’t have to be incredibly high
- it saves pens, paper and printing out receipts
- waiters don’t have to figure out when you’re ready to order, the customer does it at their own pace
And Chinese customers like this method of ordering, it’s new, it’s hassle free and means you don’t have to take cash with you as your phone is your wallet. I still prefer to talk to a person, ask for recommendations and feel like I’m an actual customer, rather than just a table number.
What do you think about this new type of café? Would you like to visit somewhere like this? Would it be popular where you live, or is China leading the way in online gimmicks?
*Yes, even in February