A Review of UWink: Are Digital Dinners the New Revolution in Eating Out?

There are a multitude of sins a waiter can commit, and as customers, we are none too forgiving. While contemplating whether a four dollar tip is really necessary, we bitterly recount moments of rude service, unfilled water glasses, and forgotten bread baskets.

What if the process of dealing with the wait staff could be eliminated altogether?

For her birthday, my friend decided to celebrate at UWink, a small bistro tucked away in a popular shopping center. The restaurant’s concept was intriguing: customers order their food through touchscreen terminals, and while waiting, can also play digital games with their friends. I was immediately charmed.

Emblazoned with glowing neon signs, UWink was easy to find. Inside, the walls were covered with television screens, colorful lights, and futuristic furnishings. I enjoyed this unique spin on restaurant décor.

However, all glimmers of enjoyment began to dwindle immediately.

After being seated, I realized (with some alarm) that although each table consisted of six chairs, only three computers were provided. This arrangement resulted in some awkward pairing. I found myself having to share a rather small monitor with a rather large individual; let us call him “Joe.” Having met Joe only five minutes before, the whole situation was vaguely reminiscent of an uncomfortable blind date.

This discomfort only increased when we engaged in the much-anticipated digital games. Joe and I dabbled in a variety of relatively engaging trivia. But after a few failed rounds of “Who Wants to be a Zillionaire” (and one episode in which our computer screen blanked out for seven minutes), Joe became fixated on “Maxim Picture Perfect,” which consisted of spotting the differences between two seemingly identical pictures of scantily clad women. After studying multiple pairs of blondes to assess whether their negligee patterns matched, I came to the conclusion that I would have preferred small talk with Joe.

Forty-five minutes later, a disinterested pseudo-server briefly appeared in order to drop off our food. My Cobb salad cost twelve dollars, the average price for most of the plates. However, I can confidently say that I have encountered much better salads for half the price. The dusting of bacon was soggy, and the ham was spongily similar to cubed Lunchables meat. But most perplexing was the fact that in addition to being extremely salty, the salad was warm. Needless to say, this was quite an unpleasant combination for a salad. Joe also complained about the blandness of his barbecue burger. In fact, the only satisfied customer was the birthday girl, who hardly touched her chicken sandwich, but couldn’t get enough of her third martini.

UWink’s idea of combining technology with entertainment is innovative, but unfortunately, it takes away from the experience of dining out. The games are meant to facilitate socialization; in reality, the situation was reminiscent of a group of children absorbed with their cell phones during dinner. I find that I prefer to leave our brilliantly advanced world behind when I go out for a meal with my friends, even if that means chasing down a waitress or two.