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Brevets

  1. Recherche avancée dans les brevets
Numéro de publicationWO2005015463 A1
Type de publicationDemande
Numéro de demandePCT/IE2004/000110
Date de publication17 févr. 2005
Date de dépôt11 août 2004
Date de priorité12 août 2003
Numéro de publicationPCT/2004/110, PCT/IE/2004/000110, PCT/IE/2004/00110, PCT/IE/4/000110, PCT/IE/4/00110, PCT/IE2004/000110, PCT/IE2004/00110, PCT/IE2004000110, PCT/IE200400110, PCT/IE4/000110, PCT/IE4/00110, PCT/IE4000110, PCT/IE400110, WO 2005/015463 A1, WO 2005015463 A1, WO 2005015463A1, WO-A1-2005015463, WO2005/015463A1, WO2005015463 A1, WO2005015463A1
InventeursNiamh Orla O'byrne
DéposantNiamh Orla O'byrne
Exporter la citationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
Liens externes:  Patentscope, Espacenet
Improvements in and relating to ordering
WO 2005015463 A1
Résumé
A method and system for managing and controlling the ordering of, paying for, and delivering of goods and services within an establishment such as a bar (2) having establishment serving staff (22), establishment preparation staff (23) and customers (21). Customers orders are inputted by customers into customer consoles (2) having viewed menus on the consoles (2) which are also used for payment in an establishment by payment cards or by charge or credit card. When payment has been made, the order is displayed on staff display devices (5) for initial preparation by the establishment preparation staff (23) and then delivery by the establishment serving staff (23).
Revendications  (Le texte OCR peut contenir des erreurs.)
1. A method of managing and controlling the ordering of, paying for, and delivering of goods and/or services within an establishment, whereby the customer orders are downloaded directly to the establishment staff and prepaid for prior to receiving the goods or services, without the use of currency by the customers or staff, for subsequent delivery to the customer by the establishment staff, the method comprising: an establishment server sending for storage on customer consoles, each having data input and display means, a list of all items of goods and/or services for sale as an ordering menu; the customers using the customer consoles to input an order from the menu for transfer to the establishments server; the customer console displaying the order and a payment requirement; at some stage prior to or on confirmation of the order the customer inputting a payment card into the customer consoles; the customer console sending the order to the establishment server;
the establishment server debiting the payment card with the payment amount; the establishment server transferring the order to establishment display devices also having data input means; and the establishment display devices displaying the order and the location to where it is to be delivered, the establishment staff supplying the ordered goods and/or services in accordance with the order.
2. A method as claimed in claim 1 , in which the establishment display devices display the customer orders in the order it has been received.
3. A method as claimed in claim 1 or 2 in which on debiting the payment card the establishment server sends confirmation of receipt of the order to the customer console for display on the customer console.
4. A method as claimed in claim 3 in which the establishment server sends, with the confirmation of receipt of the order, an estimated time of arrival (ETA) of the order to the customer.
5. A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which the steps are performed of: establishment preparation staff prepare goods in accordance with the order as viewed on the establishment display device; at appropriate times during the preparation of the order and at least on the completion of the preparation of the order the preparation staff input information on the progress of the preparation into the establishment display device for onward transmission to the other establishment display devices and establishment server staff whereby establishment server staff are informed that some or all of the order is available for delivery to the customer; and the establishment server staff delivers some or all of the order to the customer.
6. A method as claimed in claim 5 in which on completion of the delivery of the order one or more of: a receipt for the payment; a payment card receipt; and a payment card dOGket for signature; accompanies the order,
7. A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which on placing an order the customer inputs the location of another customer console associated with .other customers to whom the goods are to be delivered.
8. A method as claimed in claim 7 in which on completion of the delivery of the order to the other customer one or more of: a receipt for the payment; a payment card receipt; and a payment card docket for signature; is delivered to the customer console from whence the order was placed.
9. A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which when a customer does not possess or wish to use a previously issued payment card the customer: inputs currency into an establishment payment card dispenser; and receives an establishment payment card to the value of the currency inputted for subsequent use.
10. A method as claimed in claim 9 in which the establishment payment card is one of a card configured for use in other establishments and exclusively for the establishment.
11. A method as claimed in claim 9 or 10, in which on completing a transaction using an establishment payment card the customer inputs the establishment payment card into a currency dispenser and receives currency to the value of the unused balance on the establishment payment card.
12. A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which a record of stock on hand is maintained and updated in real time as each order is received and the menu is adjusted accordingly.
10 13. A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which the establishment server stores details of each order and the time elapsed between ordering and delivery together with any ETA supplied to the customer for further analysis.
15 14. "A method as claimed in any preceding claim, in which all relevant information regarding the ordering of, paying for and delivery of goods , and/or services within the establishment are stored for future analysis.
20. 15. A method as claimed in claim 14, in which the information includes inter alia some or all of: order information;
25 preparation times; payment data; stock control information;
30 payment reconciliation; staff numbers; and customer numbers.
16. A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which on customers entering and exiting the establishment they are counted to provide an occupancy number for the establishment server in real time.
17. A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which on a customer accessing a customer console: . the customer inputs a payment card; the customer requests the payment card to be used as long as the customer is using that customer console; the establishment server registers the request; the establishment server sends to the customer console a personal identification number (PIN) for use by the customer; and _. the customer inputs the PIN into the console as each order is confirmed.
18. A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which on more than one customer accessing the one customer console: a multiple payment option is chosen; ' the customer inputs a payment card; the customer requests the payment card to be debited a specified amount; the payment card is debited; the specified amount is credited to the total payment required; and further payment cards are inputted until the total payment is received.
19. A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which the communication between the customer consoles; . the establishment servers; the establishment display devices; and any necessary ancillary equipment are carried out over a secured dedicated local area network (LAN).
20. A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which: the customer uses the customer console to input a request for internet access; the customer console displays the request and a request for payment; the customer inputs a payment card into the customer console; the server debits the payment card with the requested payment; and the customer console is connected to the internet.
21. A method as claimed in claim 20 in which, when connected to the internet, the customer requests the purchase of goods and/or services from a merchant having a merchant computer, when an agreement exists between a specific merchant and the establishment, the steps are performed of: the customer console confirms the purchase including delivery details with the merchant computer; the merchant computer requests payment; the customer console sends the request for payment to the establishment server; the establishment server debits the customer's payment card; and the establishment server agrees payment in accordance with the merchant terms as if the server had made the purchase request to the merchant computer.
22. "A method as claimed in any preceding claim in which one or more of the following steps are carried out by the establishment server sending to each customer console: special offers in respect of the purchase of goods and/or services; special offers in respect of specific payment cards; establishment competitions for playing between customers; ingredients and preparation data where food and drink is served; advertisements; information on and access to all available products and services including: mobile phone interactivity; interactive camera and visual technology; banking; television programmes; interactive telecommunication technology; visual and media technology; and games for playing on the customer console.
23. A system (1) for managing and controlling the ordering of, paying for and delivering of goods arid/or services within an establishment, whereby the customer orders are downloaded directly to the establishment staff and prepaid for prior to receiving the goods or services, without the use of currency by the customers or staff, for subsequent delivery to the customer by the establishment staff, the system comprising: a plurality of customer consoles (2) having display screens (7) comprising touch screen controls for input of commands; a payment card reader connected to each customer console (2); establishment display devices (5) comprising touch screen controls; an establishment server (3) comprising means to send an ordering menu to each customer console (2); means to receive an order from a customer console (2); means to receive payment from the payment card; means to send the order for display on the establishment display devices (5) on receiving payment; and a communication network (6) interconnecting the customer consoles, (2) the establishment server (3) and the establishment display devices (5).
24. A system as claimed in claim 23 comprising an establishment payment card dispenser (30) including a currency release means.. . ... ~
25. A system as claimed in claim 24 in which the dispenser (30) includes a payment card reader and currency dispenser (38) .
26. A system as claimed in any of claims 23 to 26 comprising people counting means (28) to provide the occupancy number for the establishment in real time.
27. A system as claimed in any of claims 23 to 26 in which the communication network (6) is a secure local area network (LAN).
28. A system as claimed in any of claims 23 to 27 in which communication means (6) has means to connect to the internet.
29. A computer program comprising program instructions for causing a computer program to form the method of any of claims 1 to 22.
30. A computer program comprising program instructions for providing the means of claims 23 to 28 inclusive.
31. A computer program as claimed in claim 29 or 30 embodied on a record medium.
32. A computer program as claimed in claim 29 or 30 stored in a computer memory.
33. A computer program as claimed in claim 29 or 30 embodied in a read-only memory.
34. A computer program as claimed in claim 29 or 30 carried on an electrical signal.
Description  (Le texte OCR peut contenir des erreurs.)

"Improvements in and relating tn ordering"

Introduction

The present invention relates to a method and system of managing and controlling the ordering of, paying for and delivering of goods and/or services within an establishment, whereby the customer orders are downloaded directly to the establishment staff and prepaid for prior to receiving the goods or services, without the use of currency by the customers or staff, for subsequent delivery to the customer by the establishment staff.

Interactive menu systems which allow a customer for example in a restaurant to order food items without requiring a waiter or waitress are already known. A terminal with screen display is provided on a dining table such as for example described in PCT Specification No. WO 01/35716 (APEX - PAL International PTE Limited). The problem with this system is that the goods are riot prepaid for and there is no incentive to pay using a credit card nor obligation to use any type of electronic/digital payment cards. Therefore, there is still the whole problem of the handling of currency. The orders must be printed on paper before they are prepared. Customers must also call a waiter and wait for a waiter to return with the bill once the goods/services have been received/consumed. Customers must also go to a separate point of sale where they must communicate and rely upon a member of staff to complete the sales transaction. Not only is this time consuming and inefficient, it also does not address the myriad of problems experienced by customers with disabilities or who speak a different language. While it goes some way to providing an electronic ordering system it does not overcome the various other problems currently experienced by customers and establishments and enumerated above.

Another system is described in US Specification No. 2003/0036977 (Harshaw Research Incorporated) which uses a hand held data entry terminal which is carried by a waiter and thus does not get over the major problem of the use of waiters to take the order nor does this specification address any other problems currently experienced by customers, staff and management in all establishments where customers purchase goods and/or services. Another typical invention is that of US Specification 2002/0038165 (McHale et al.). This specification discloses a system which does not, as according to object of the present invention require a waiter or waitress to take the order. However, it is largely concerned with the bringing of advertising material to the patrons of an establishment from an external source. Indeed one would suggest that it fails to handle the orders in an efficient manner and still relies on customer staff interaction to complete the sales transactions after the goods/services have been received/consumed. . All it does is to bypass the use of waiters for the ordering process but does not address the myriad of other problems currently experienced with traditional methods of ordering and payments for goods/services. It is essentially an advertising unit.

Essentially what all the prior art devices which purport to have an interactive ordering system fail to do is to integrate that ordering system within the overall operation of the establishment to ensure that orders are placed, paid for and delivered efficiently so that the establishment can be run efficiently without the use of staff to take orders or complete payment transactions, without relying on paper or using paper records, without forcing patrons to move to a separate point-of-sale, without using cash, and finally that bills are paid prior to the reception by the payer of what he or she has ordered. For an interactive ordering system to operate efficiently these features are all essential.

At present, patrons of bars must first of all enter the bar and find a seat, then decide what they wish to order based on what they think might be available or based on a paper menu which may very well be out of date or where products may be out of stock. The customers then decide amongst themselves who. will place the order at the bar; or they wait until a member of staff sees them, comes over to them and then takes their order by writing it down on paper, whereby this member of staff then must go back to the bar to speak to the preparation staff (who are also serving customers at the bar), give them the order and wait around until it has been prepared before bringing it back to the correct customers with the estimated amount of change (cash- currency) ready for the customer.

Once the order has been completed and then delivered to the customer, the member of staff asks for payment, at which time the customers must decide whether to pay with cash or electronic card and whether to split the bill or create a "rounds system" where one person pays. The member of staff either takes the cash-currency and gives back the correct amount of change or takes the customer's electronic card back to the bar and inputs the correct amount to be debited, waits for the payment to be accepted, waits for the card receipt to be printed and then returns to the customer with the card receipt/payment docket and waits for the customer to sign the receipt/docket before validating the signature.

If there is no table service in the establishment, the customer must leave his or her seat and go to the bar whereupon the customer stands in line amongst other customers waiting to be seen/served by the preparation staff. If it is a busy night, the customer may be standing there for quite some time. If the person has any kind of difference/disability to the average able-bodied regular customer (wheelchair user, deaf, mute, spin-bifida, foreign language, short in stature, aged, vulnerable, MS, Arthritis, learning disability, speech impediment, a different ethnicity etc) this customer may not be seen/heard/served the same as a larger, louder and more able- bodied person. This often causes tension at the bar where patrons (many of whom will have consumed alcohol) feel that they are being ignored, overlooked, being discriminated against or that the system is just simply inefficient and unfair.

Once the preparation staff sees the customer, the customer then orally communicates their order to the preparation staff and hands over cash-currency or their electronic card. The preparation staff then prepares the order (based on what they have heard/what they have interpreted the customerJo have said). They place the drinks on the bar-counter and give back what they deem to be the correct amount of cash-change. This process is not only time-consuming and stressful for both customers and staff; it is also fraught with difficulties and potential inaccuracies/hostilities. For example, the staff, who are busy taking orders (aurally) and preparing orders, working the till, inputting cash payments, calculating the correct change, inputting electronic payments and swiping cards, organising the card docket/receipt for signage and giving it to the customer, handing back the correct change - often make mistakes which lead to time consuming and frustrating debates/arguments at the bar. Once the full order and payment transaction has been completed, the customers must still find their way back to their seat with the drinks/order.

If the customer has requested more than a couple of products, it is likely that they will need a tray to facilitate carrying the order back to their table. If this has not been provided initially with the order, the customer must again wait until they attract the attention of the staff and then request the tray whereupon they must find their way back to their seat without spilling any drink or causing any other customer discomfort.

The fact that the customers are responsible for bringing, their own drinks and the drinks/products that other customers had requested back to the seats/table creates the added risk of drinks/products being tampered with. In recent times, there have been many serious incidents of drinks being "spiked" with an array of illicit substances resulting in innumerable tragedies. This risk would be greatly reduced if customers were guaranteed that their drinks/products were brought to them by a responsible and accountable member of staff.

This cumbersome, frustrating and inefficient process causes many problems for the average able-bodied customer. Should this customer have any disability or in any way be less-able than other customers (as listed above) their difficulties and frustrations are immediately multiplied as is the amount of time wasted, the likelihood of inefficiencies, being over-looked, difficulties carrying the products back to the seats/tables, hostilities, general problems, etc.

Similarly, in an average restaurant, customers enter and are seated. They then wait for a waiter to return with a menu. The waiter leaves to attend to the other customers he/she is serving. The customers browse the (paper) menu and make a selection; they then must wait until the assigned waiter becomes free to take their order manually and on paper. Or, similarly, the waiter appears too soon, asking the customers for their order before the customer has made their selection, whereupon the waiter disappears and again attends to the needs of others. When the customers have made their selection and the waiter is free to take their order, the customers orally give this information to the waiter, whereupon the customer may be told that certain goods they have selected from the menu are currently out-of-stock - forcing the customer to rethink their order and waste more time getting the order to the kitchen/bar at all.

Similarly, should either the customer or the waiter speak a different language or have any kind of speech or other impediment, the time it takes to place a successful and correct order is immediately increased. Similarly, should the customer have any special dietary needs and enquire as to the ingredients within a specific meal or the cooking-methods used in certain meals, the waiter is either expected to know this information and to have the means to effectively communi ate this to the customer. Should the waiter not know the exact details, they must then go back to the kitchen/bar and enquire _ leaving the customer to wait once more before being able to successfully place their order. Once the order has been successfully given to the waiter, the waiter must then bring the order information to the kitchen/bar staff. The kitchen/bar staff receives this information (usually on paper - handwritten by the particular waiter) and begin the preparation of the order. The customer has no idea how long this preparation will take and has nothing to occupy him/herself with until the order arrives. Similarly, the customer is not provided with any means to learn more about the establishment, to create a relationship/loyalty to the establishment etc. nor given any peripheral incentive to return.

Eventually, when the order has been prepared, the waiter must be notified by the kitchen/bar staff that the order is ready to be brought to the customer. The waiter then brings the order to the customer and leaves them to enjoy their meal. When the entire order/meal has been consumed; the customer must then call the waiter back and request the bill - where they see for the first time how much the entire cost actually is.

Where the paper menus have been written without VAT (value added tax) and without a mention of service charges, disputes often arise. Similarly, the opportunity for the customer to (either accidentally or purposefully) leave the premises without paying is very high. Should the customers be happy with the amount requested, they must then decide amongst themselves how to pay, to split the bill, for one person to pay the entire amount, to use cash or payment cards, etc. When this has been decided, payment is handed over to the waiter and -the waiter leaves to input the correct amount of payment into either the till or the electronic card reader. If a customer has handed over their electronic card, they are immediately at risk of at least fearful of their card details being obtained illegally for future use (as has been known to happen). Nonetheless, the customer must yet again wait for the waiter to return with the payment card receipl docket before signature validation can take place and the final transaction completed. Should the customer have paid with cash, the customer must again wait until the waiter returns with the eorrect change - providing they have not mistaken any additional monies as their tip.

In many restaurants, this kind of table service is not available and therefore the customer must leave their seat and go to a separate display counter and a separate, pojnt-of-sale to begin and complete their ordering and payment transactions. Only when all this cumbersome activity is finally completed can the customer leave the premises, thereby leaving their table available for the next customer. Again, should either the waiters or the customers have any disability or be in any way different to the average able-bodied local/regular customer, the difficulties, discrimination, frustrations, inefficiencies and stress that they are faced with are immediately multiplied.

Currently, customers using airports, trains or buses where they are transporting luggage and/or minding children are also faced with innumerable difficulties and safety/security concerns, should they wish to make a purchase. If, for example, a mother with small children and several bags wishes to make a purchase at a bar/cafό/shop/restaurant, etc. without losing her seats, she must leave her luggage and children unattended while she goes to the staff/counter and places her order - whereupon all the problems described above take place - with the added risk of her bags being tampered with/stolen or her children being put at risk. Similarly, should this customer have any kind of disability, these difficulties/risks are immediately multiplied.

Current ordering and payment systems in any establishment where customers pay for goods and/or services are grossly inadequate, time consuming, inefficient and seriously undermine the likelihood of customers being able to properly enjoy and conduct the process of purchasing and/or consuming their chosen goods safely and without unnecessary time wasting, inaccuracies, personal and financial risk, out of date menus, difficult/hostile/inaccurate communication, physical movement, wrong change or money disputes, etc.

Staff and management too experience a wide range of unnecessary difficulties and risks. Like the customer, the staff must orally communicate with all customers and ascertain exactly what they are ordering, calculate how much they need to pay and organise/facilitate all payments. As described above, in the case of the customer, the staff too are subject to unnecessary pressures, constant multi-tasking, inaccuracies, frustrations, time wasting, hostilities, etc.

Currently, cash transactions are still commonplace, therefore the risk of theft or burglary is always high especially as the management leaves the premises with bags of cash to be deposited into their bank. Using cash as the main method of payment is also unnecessarily cumbersome and time consuming when dealing with customers and when at the end of a trading day, the staff and managers must count their takings manually and then assess whether they are equal to the amount of stock sold and if the till tallies. They must often manually count the stock and decide on which products need to be re-ordered based on what they deem to be fast selling or slow selling products, what is in season, what is likely to come into demand, etc. These calculations are often based on facts that have been assumed, based on previous seasons/years of trading and are therefore not thoroughly accurate, thus resulting in over-stocking or under-stocking particular goods that might indeed be out-of- season/out-of-fashion, etc.

As staff and management depend on their product display and/or paper menus to advertise what goods/services are available to the customer, many desirable products fall by the wayside and do not sell well. Again, this costs the establishment greatly and can cause them to decide not to stock these products again - which in fact would have sold well and could have attracted new customers if there had been means to properly display them.

Currently menus are most often printed, on paper, updating this information (be it prices, stock, specials etc.) is cumbersome and expensive, hugely wasteful and often inaccurate. Should an establishment wish to advertise other facilities or events taking place, this is usually done by distributing paper leaflets/flyers or through intrusive announcements. Not only are leaflets hugely expensive to produce, they are also extremely wasteful and very often result in large amounts of litter both inside and outside of the premises. Given that many customers may not wish to hold onto several pieces of paper for the duration of their time in the establishment, the effectiveness of this kind of advertising/promotion is also called into question.

These problems, as described above, exist in a myriad of combinations in all establishments where customers wish to purchase any goods or services.

People at the races miss the finish because they were held up at the bar or had to leave their seat to place another bet. People in hotels cannot get room service because the kitchens are closed or the receptionist did not patch through their order. People at drive-through restaurants must wait until all the cars before them have placed and received their orders before they can even place theirs. People in supermarkets must navigate their way through the shopping isles and amongst other shoppers before having to wait in line to complete their payment transactions and finally see the amount they owe. People on aeroplanes must carry their "duty-free" goods with them from country to country. Staff on aeroplanes must stock the craft with all available goods at all times and update the "duty-free" magazine and calculate this added weight into the amount of necessary fuel, etc. Disabled people are denied their independence and have to rely on others to help them order drinks from a bar or pay a bill at a restaurant or push their trolley, etc. Theft, burglary, awkward and dangerous banking deposits, credit-card fraud, food and drink and property tampering/damage, out-of-stock products, bad orders, wrong change, manual stock takes, manual till tally, language barriers, queues, chaos, overcrowding, "hidden" products, paper wastage, discrimination, time wasting, inefficient service, oral and aural communication, separate points-of-sale, multi-tasking, lack of a centralised and thoroughly comprehensive database, general inaccuracies, frustrations and hostilities are all too common for all concerned because there does not yetexist (in practice nor described in any prior art) a cohesive, fully integrated, automated system which overcomes all of these problems and provides additional means for innumerable ancillary services (at the discretion of each establishment). The present invention is directed at overcoming some of these problems and providing an efficient, safe, non-discriminative, automated, fully interactive digital/electronic ordering and payment system.

Statements of Invention

According to the invention there is provided a method of managing and controlling the ordering of, paying for and delivering . of goods and/or services within an establishment, whereby the customer orders are downloaded directly to the establishment staff and prepaid for prior to receiving the goods or services, without the use of currency by the customers or staff, for subsequent delivery to the customer by the establishment staff, the method comprising: an establishment server sending for storage on customer consoles, each having data input and display means, a list of all items of goods and/or services for sale as an ordering menu; the customers using the customer consoles to input an order from the menu for transfer to the establishments server;

"the customer console displaying the order and a payment requirement; at some stage prior to or on confirmation of the order the customer inputting a payment card into the customer consoles; the customer console sending the order to the establishment server;

the establishment server debiting the payment card with the payment amount;

. the establishment server transferring the order to establishment display devices also having data input means; and the establishment display devices displaying the order and the location to where it is to be delivered, the establishment staff supplying the ordered goods and/or services in accordance with the order.

This has many advantages. This in effect creates a method which allows what is in. essence a cashless, paperless and waiter-less environment in the sense that waiters are now simply employed to deliver the goods and are not employed to take orders nor to complete payment transactions. It is essentially paper-less in that the orders are taken, confirmed etc. without the use of paper, the only paper provided being the necessary paper for a payment card to be used and as the necessity to use paper for payment cards recedes (as almost certainly will be the case in the future by use of electronic PIN instead of signature validation), then the system becomes totally paperless. It also overcomes many of the problems and expenses incurred particularly in the retail service or hospitality industry when it comes to selling goods and receiving payment. The customer now orders and pays for the goods in advance which considerably helps the establishment and eliminates a host of problems currently endured by both staff and patron. The ordering is carried out without any communication, at least direct oral communication with staff, thus it does not therefore rely on staff interpretation of an order or indeed of the mistakes that occur when a member of staff takes an order and then transmits that order to another member of staff for filling. Language/communication barriers (deafness, etc.) will also no longer hinder the timely, accurate and efficient execution of a full ordering and payment transaction by customers. All the errors and uncertainties of this are removed. There is the further advantage to the customers in that they never hand over their payment card whether it be a credit card, a debit card or any other card to members of staff and thus this obviates any possibility of card skimming and the taking of imprints of the card illegally. Further, it saves immeasurable time in that the payment is entirely within the hands of the customer and not in the hands of staff who may have to wait for clearance of the payment or become free of other duties to attend to the payment transaction of a particular customer. A further advantage is that a customer effectively has full control of how much he or she spends prior to spending it. It also can be extremely advantageous that orders are transmitted directly to preparation staff and not via waiters so that the preparation staff receive orders the instant they are given. It also avoids the customer having to wait until a member of staff comes to take an order and subsequently to provide a bill and invoice to the customer. It also ensures that customers remain at their console to fully complete their transaction and are not forced to leave their seat/table/console to attend a separate point-of-sale in order to complete their desired transaction. This is especially beneficial to customers with any kind of physical disability, or who do not wish to leave luggage or children unattended, etc..

In the method according to the invention on debiting the payment card the establishment server sends confirmation of receipt of the order to the customer console for display on the customer console. This gives certainty to the customer that their order has been received and they are not left in the embarrassing situation of querying somebody who originally took their order that is to say if they can locate that person in the establishment and then having to find out whether the order had in fact been transmitted to preparation staff or not. Another feature of this invention is that all goods/services displayed on the menu have an information button/data display whereby the customer can see the country of origin, cooking instructions, DNA trace, full ingredients, and all appropriate information relating to the product/service. This allows the customer to modify (for example the ingredients or cooking instructions) the product service to their liking, while at the same time complying with current legislation regarding food labelling and accountability.

In one embodiment of the invention the establishment server sends, with the confirmation of receipt of the order, an estimated time of arrival (ETA) of the order to the customer. This can be exceedingly advantageous to the customer, they now know their order has been received and they know when they are likely to obtain the goods. This can have considerable advantages in a restaurant and places where beverages are sold. This also provides the customer with a window of time and an incentive to browse the other subsidiary capabilities of the system which the establishment may choose to make available.

In one method according to the invention, the establishment display devices display the customer orders in the order it has been received. In another method according to the invention, upon receipt of a customer order by the establishment server and staff display screens, the steps are performed of: establishment preparation staff prepare goods in accordance with the order .as viewed on the establishment display device; at appropriate times during the preparation of the order and at least on the completion of the preparation of the . order the preparation staff input information on the progress of the preparation into the establishment display device for onward transmission to the other establishment display devices and establishment server staff whereby establishment server staff are informed that some or all of the order is available for delivery to the customer; and the establishment server staff delivers some, or all of the order to the customer;

Optionally, the establishment server staff input information of the delivery into an establishment display device for display by the establishment display devices and for storage by the establishment server.

This has considerable advantages in that it is possible for the management of the establishment to oversee the work being done. It also prevents staff having to wait around waiting for orders because they are informed immediately an order is ready for delivery and thus they will be delivered in order of readiness and delivered to the customer^ It is also advantageous if part of an order is delivered before the rest that it be clearly noted so that the serving staff is informed. Also it is advantageous for the management to have clear indication of how long various items take to be prepared and how efficiently the staff complete their tasks.

In many instances on completion of the delivery of the order one or more of: a receipt for the payment; a payment card receipt; and . a payment card docket for signature;

accompanies the order. This will be done to facilitate the customers but it should be appreciated that it is effectively only a receipt. In some instances it may need to be signed because a credit card slip may need to be signed but this is the only paper that is used in the whole transaction.

In one method according to the invention on placing an order the customer inputs the location of another customer console associated with other customers to whom the goods are to be delivered. This allows people buy drinks, food and other goods or indeed certain services for fellow users of an establishment. With this latter method when on completion of the order to the other customer one or more of: a receipt for the payment; a payment card receipt; and a payment card docket for signature;

is delivered to the customer console from whence the order was placed. But the delivery is done to ensure that the customer who has paid for the other goods or services in turn himself or herself signs any necessary dockets required.

In one method according to the invention when a customer does not possess or wish to use a previously issued payment card the customer: inputs currency into an establishment payment card dispenser; and receives an establishment payment card to the value of the currency inputted for subsequent use. This facilitates the cashless nature of the transactions. Again the establishment is not responsible for handling cash and this greatly facilitates both customers and serving staff in that there cannot be disputes, mistakes, theft or confusion generally in the sense that no cash has been handled. In this latter method the establishment payment card may be configured for use exclusively in the establishment or |h other establishments. The advantage of this is that now the establishment or a group of establishments has effectively the use of the money until the eard is used for making payments. It's exceedingly advantageous to the establishment. It increases the

"loyalty" aspect of the card. These pre-paid loyalty cards may also be configured to work exclusively in one establishment.

With these latter two methods on completing a transaction using an establishment payment card, the establishment may choose to provide means whereby the customer may input the establishment payment card into a currency dispenser and receives currency to the value of the unused balance on the establishment payment card. This will be done to facilitate customers who wish to obtain money back and do not wish to keep the payment card that has been issued to them. However everything will be done to encourage customers to retain the payment card with its unused credit. Hopefully giving them money back would be the exception rather than the rule because one wants to do everything possible to turn the payment card into a loyalty card which would then guarantee returning customers and ensure a totally cash-less society with the added advantage of marketing the establishment to the general public. Indeed it is envisaged that incentives will be provided to encourage people to keep the establishment payment card rather than attempting to cash it in.

Another feature of this invention is that a record of stock on hand is maintained and up-dated in real time as each order is received and the menu is adjusted accordingly. This has considerable advantages for the establishment in that it ensures the customers are not ordering goods that are no longer available and that details of goods can be removed so as not to dissatisfy the customer who may wish to purchase some goods that aren't available and will therefore feel that they have been in some way let down by the establishment. If, however, the menu does not display them, then the fact that an item is no longer for sale should cause the minimum amount of upset to the customer.

Further, in one method of carrying out the invention, all relevant information regarding the ordering of, paying for and delivery of goods and/or services within the establishment are stored for future analysis. In this latter method, the information includes inter alia some or all of: order information; preparation times; payment data; stock control information; payment reconciliation; staff numbers; and customer numbers.

In one way of carrying out the invention the establishment server stores details of each order and the time elapsed between ordering and delivery together with any ETA supplied to the customer for further analysis. By doing this the management of the establishment should be able to ensure that they have the correct amount of staff available at all times to provide the. optimum service to the customer. Further, by doing this the management would be able to calculate very accurately how long it takes in various circumstances between acceptance of an order and its delivery. Thus they will be able to improve on the ETAs given to customers.

In one method according to the invention on customers entering and exiting the establishment they are counted to provide an occupancy number for the establishment server in real time. By having an accurate count of the number of customers in the establishment the management can ensure that at no stage is the establishment overcrowded. This will also help them keep an accurate track on the amount of staff required at any particular time and also to give accurate ETAs to customers. Obviously the ETA of any order will be determined not just simply by the number of staff available but will also be governed by the number of orders received, the mean time it takes to complete the order and delivery and this will be closely correlated to the number of people within the establishment.

In one method of carrying out the invention on a customer accessing a customer console: the customer inputs a payment card; the customer requests the payment card to be used as long as the customer is using that customer console; the establishment server registers the request; the establishment server sends to the customer console a personal identification number (PIN) for use by the customer; and the customer inputs the PIN into the console as each order is confirmed.

The advantage of this is that the customer can then make repeat orders without the necessity to, for example, sign a credit card for each order, make additional separate card payments or have a number of payment slips.

In another method according to the invention on more than one customer accessing the one customer console: a multiple payment option is chosen; the customer inputs a payment card; the customer requests the payment card to be debited a specified amount; the payment card is debited; the specified amount is credited to the total payment required; and further payment cards are inputted until the total payment is received.

The advantage of this "multi-swipe" option is that customers can split bills by inputting different amounts for each card to be charged until the bill has been paid. It facilitates the sharing of payments in a simple manner for the establishment.

In this invention the communication between the customer consoles; the establishment server; the establishment display devices; and any necessary ancillary equipment are carried out over a secured dedicated local area network (LAN)

Having a secure closed circuit LAN system is particularly advantageous as it increases security. It also allows the establishment to utilise its system in whatever, manner they deem most appropriate for their particular needs. Indeed one can envisage numerous situations where the establishment would not breach security by having -any connection to the outside world.

in another embodiment of the invention it is envisaged that there may be a facility whereby: the customer uses the customer console to input a request for internet access; the customer console displays the request and a request for payment; the customer inputs a payment card into the customer console; the server debits the payment card with the requested payment; and the customer console is connected to the internet.

This additional facility may be provided but is not by any means essential for the operation of the invention. While the ability to connect to the internet may be advantageous the ordering and payment system of the present invention and the interactivity between the various parts of the system is not dependent on the internet or any other external system.

In another way of carrying out the invention when connected to the internet the customer requests the purchase of goods and/or services from a merchant having a merchant computer when an agreement has been made between a merchant and the establishment, the steps are performed of: the customer console confirms the purchase including delivery details with the merchant computer; the merchant computer requests payment; the customer console sends the request for payment to the establishment server; the establishment server debits the customer's payment card; and the establishment server agrees payment in accordance with the merchant terms as if the server had made the purchase request to the merchant computer. The advantage of this use of the internet is that effectively the payment is carried out within the establishment and thus the merchant does not have any concerns regarding payment guarantees or credit checking because effectively the payment is being cleared by the establishment server. Effectively, the financial transaction is between the merchant and the establishment and thus payments for relatively small amounts of service over the internet are readily easily achieved without too much difficulty. The merchant is not handling a multiplicity of accounts and at the same time the establishment is getting the benefit of some payment from the customer for this internet access to purchase goods or services such as for example, pay-for TV, music, sports results, or other internet/telecommunications facilities. These could be quite restricted in the sense that anybody who wished to supply their services to the establishment would have to reach some form of agreement with the establishment particularly for the sale of goods or as mentioned above, other pay-for activities and so on.

In another method according to the invention the following steps are carried out by the establishment server sending to each customer console: special offers in respect of the purchase of goods and/or services; special offers in respect of specific payment cards; establishment competitions for playing between customers; ingredients and preparation data where food and drink is served; advertisements; information on and access to all available products and services including: mobile phone interactivity; interactive camera and visual technology; banking; television programmes; interactive telecommunication technology; visual and media technology; and games for playing on the customer console.

This allows considerable flexibility from the establishment to provide additional services and to make money from using advertisements of other establishments and operations that would not conflict with the aims of the particular establishment.

The invention further provides a system for managing and controlling the ordering, payments and delivering of goods and/or services within an establishment, whereby the customer orders are downloaded directly to the establishment staff and prepaid for prior to receiving the goods or services, without the use of currency by the customers or staff, for subsequent delivery to the customer by the establishment staff, the system comprising: a plurality of customer consoles having display screens comprising touch screen controls for input of commands; a payment card reader connected to each customer console; establishment display devices comprising touch screen controls; an establishment server comprising means to send an ordering menu to each customer console; means to receive an order from a customer console; means to receive payment from the payment card; means to send the order for display on the establishment display devices on receiving payment; and a communication network interconnecting the customer consoles, the establishment server and the establishment display devices.

This is a particularly advantageous setup in that a relatively small number of pieces of equipment are all closely and interactively linked together allowing for multi-directional signalling and interactivity between all pieces; including interactivity between customer consoles.

In the system according to the invention the system may comprise an establishment payment card dispenser including a currency release means. Such a payment card dispenser ensures that the transactions do not use currency, all the payments are made through a payment card, either a credit card a customer already has or the establishment payment card.

In a further embodiment of the invention the dispenser includes a payment card reader and currency dispenser. This is to allow for the return of cash to customers on deciding to purchase nothing more within the establishment. In one embodiment of the invention the system comprises people counting means to provide the occupancy number for the establishment in real time. This can be linked and integrated into other security measures taken by the establishment such as CCTV.

In, this invention the communication network may be a local area network (LAN) comprising wireless, cable-less, remote signalling technology (possibly Bluetooth).

In another embodiment communication means has means to connect the LAN to the internet. This allows the customers to be connected to the internet in a manner controlled and monitored by the establishment management. It is the case that many aspects of the invention will be carried out by computers and in particular, by computer programs comprising program instructions for causing a computer to carry out the method described above or to provide many of the means for causing the system to operate. Such computer programs may be embodied in a record medium stored in a computer memory, embodied in a readonly memory or carried on an electrical carrier signal.

Df-.ai.i-H Description of th«_ Invention

The invention will be more clearly understood from the following description of an embodiment thereof, given by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 is a schematic view of a system according to the invention,

Fig. 2 is a stylised view of an establishment selling beverages using the invention, and

Figs. 3 to 29 inclusive are various outlays of screens of a customer console used in accordance with the invention.

Referring to the drawings and initially to Fig. 1 there is provided a system of managing and controlling the ordering of, paying for and delivering of goods within an establishment indicated generally by the reference numeral 1 which comprises a plurality of customer consoles 2, an establishment server 3 and an associated database 4 together with establishment display devices 5 all interconnected through a communication means, in this case a local area network (LAN) 6.

Referring now to Fig. 3 each customer console 2 has a screen 7 payment card receiving/reader device for a payment card reader, not shown. The payment card reader device incorporates an order and bill screen 8. The customer console 2 has a card swipe slot 9 and finally a keypad 10. Each customer console 2 is touch-screen operated as are the staff display devices 5. Fig 2 illustrates the system in an establishment selling drinks namely a bar 20 which shows a number of customers 21 establishment serving staff 22 and establishment preparation staff 23. There is also illustrated a number of the customer consoles 2 and staff display devices 5. There is also illustrated a doorway 25 having a photoelectric cell 26 mounted on a post 27 providing a people counting means indicated generally by the reference numeral 28 for counting customers entering the establishment. Another door (not shown) is provide to allow customers exit the establishment which will also have a similar setup. The counting will be carried out and downloaded onto the establishment server 3 as a customer enters or leaves the establishment.

There is further provided an establishment payment card dispenser 30. The payment card dispenser 30 has a card dispenser slot 31 and a bank note receiving slot 32 together with a coin receiving slot 33. The establishment payment card dispenser 30 includes a currency release means for dispensing of payment cards (not shown). There is also provided a screen 35 and a numeric keypad 36. There is further provided a card reader 37 and a currency dispenser 38. In use a customer without a payment card of any sort can obtain such a payment card by inserting currency into the bank note receiving slot 32 and coin receiving slot 33. The dispenser 30 will display the amount received on the screen 35 and then by the use of the keypad 36 the necessary amount to be credited to the payment card can be inputted and the payment card can be dispensed through the card dispenser 31. The use of a keypad is optional.

Optionally, on leaving the premises the customer can insert the establishment payment card into the card reader 37 and receive currency from the currency dispenser 38.

It will be appreciated that many of the components of the system will be carried out by specific computer hardware and software suitably programmed. Thus there will also be provided computer programs comprising program instructions for carrying out the invention or providing some of the means in accordance with the invention.

In use, the establishment management will have stored on the establishment server 3 details of all drinks to be sold. For example if there was also a kitchen involved which obviously has not been illustrated in Fig. 2, then there would simply be the same arrangement in the kitchen as is illustrated in the bar. Similarly, the same arrangement would exist on board an aeroplane, in an airport terminal, in a casino or in any other establishment where ordering and paying for goods/services takes place. On every customer console 2 is displayed all the goods/services being sold by for example the bar as illustrated in Fig. 2.

The following is a description of how the customer consoles 2 can be used in practice in a restaurant.

Referring to Fig. 3 there is shown a customer console when it is first presented to a customer for use indicating the choice of language that may be used. Then presuming that somebody wishes to for example order food as illustrated in Fig. 4 the screen shows various choices that can be made such as to order food, to order drink, to view/interact with trivia, to obtain information about the particular restaurant, to connect to the web, to view a suitable screen saver or to connect to pay-for- . As shown in Fig. 4 the customer has chosen food on the touch screen 7 - then in Fig. 5 various items of food are illustrated. The customer having chosen to purchase a main course, in Fig. 5 then some of the main courses are shown together with their price and in Fig. 6 it can be seen that the customer has chosen sirloin steak at a price of €15.50. The customer always has the option of obtaining more details about the product/service that they may order and pay for by selecting the information button next to the desired product/service and/or having the option to customise this product service to suit their needs/tastes. This is especially important for customers . with certain food/drink allergies and is also in compliance With current legislation which stipulates that all food products, must be traceable to their country of origin, etc. This is illustrated in Fig. 7 where the customer has suggested what they want customised in their order and the manner in which they want their steak prepared. In Fig. 8 the customer decides to order drinks, again going back to the menu and pressing the screen 7. Then as can be seen in Fig. 9 the customer has ordered wine. In Fig. 10 the type of wine chosen is a merlot and in Fig. 10 it can also be seen that the pay button has been pressed on the screen 7 and then the sequence of payment takes place. As shown in Fig. 11 the customer chooses to pay by credit card Visa® and then in Fig. 12 the customer indicates there will be a multiple number of cards used. In Fig. 13 the first person chooses the card and decides using the keypad 10 to pay €45.00, then the second person as illustrated in Fig. 14 decides to pay €20.00. At that stage the Visa swipes add up to the payment required of €65.00 and then as illustrated, in Fig. 15 the customer confirms the order and presses send on the screen, whereby the order is sent for preparation. In Fig. 16 the order is shown as being acknowledged on this customer console 2 and the estimated time of arrival is given as 12 minutes. Then the goods are delivered to the customer. Fig. 17 shows the customer using the console to choose trivia which are listed then in Fig. 18, the customer chooses singles and in Fig. 19 it queries who's there, having chosen the singles he/she queries who's there and in Fig. 20 a message comes from the server to say that - "Tonight 62 people have registered as single and looking, 40 are male and 22 are female interested in a date." Then in Fig. 18 it is shown how the customer chooses another option and selects "drink statistics" in Fig. 21 and then further details of the statistics available from this particular establishment are given in Fig. 22 and again the customer chooses. The information is given in Fig. 23. Figs. 24 and 25 show the use of the "about us" choice which in this case refers to the bar 20 as illustrated in Fig. 2 about which various information is then displayed. Fig. 26 shows how TV may be chosen and Fig. 27 shows the TV in use. Fig. 28 shows how customers could access the web and in Fig. 29 there is shown the access to one operator of a web site namely the service supplied under the Trade Mark GOOGLE.

The term payment card is used in this invention in its very broadest either to be a debit card such as used extensively for the payment of goods, a credit card or indeed any other way of payment that can be achieved without the use of currency.

At its most basic, the present invention eliminates queuing for all customers in all establishments/situations where the purchasing of goods and/or services takes place. It eliminates the use of cash-currency for transactions thereby relegating any cash on the premises to that found in the loyalty-card dispenser and allows for instant menu display and updates, without paper usage or wastage and, even more importantly, without indicating to customers, what items are no longer available on the menu. The present invention also provides added security and peace of mind to customers who never hand over their payment cards to staff and therefore know that their card details cannot be obtained illegally. As all goods/services are given to customers by staff and not by other customers (as is. the case in traditional bars for example), the likelihood of ones drinks or food being tampered with is considerably lessened. Customers with disabilities will be able to place and pay for an order independently without having to move to a separate pqint-of-sale or rely on an able- bodied person to assist them. As customers remain in control of both placing and paying for their orders, all waiting times are considerably shortened for both staff arid customers. Foreign customers (and staff) will be able to complete their tasks without any language barriers or shortage of information. This is particularly important for customers with special dietary needs who otherwise may unknowingly ingest a food or order a product that is dangerous to them. This invention also ensures that the management of the establishments have accurate and real-time statistics and market research available to them at all times, thereby allowing them to maximise their establishment and to cater more for their customers. This invention provides alerts to the management when stocks are running low, thereby allowing the management to decide whether or not to re-order a particular item or to change stock. Re-orderingOf stock from . external merchants is not automatic, thus leaving the control with the establishment. It also reduces the work required from the waiters eliminating their order taking and traditional payment transaction function and increases the efficiency of the ordering system and greatly facilitates both stock control and payment reconciliation. Further, it will be appreciated that various messages may be displayed on the consoles such as advertisements or indeed, the consoles can be used to display T.V. programmes and the like. Also, the consoles can be used to provide pay-for TN. or other such programmes.

It will be appreciated that the invention may be incorporated in an intranet system so that customers can communicate via the intranet email with other customers of the establishment. Similarly, mobile phone and camera technology can be used through certain software and remote signalling applications so that both console to SMS and SMS to console, and digital camera applications can be used where the means have been provided and agreed upon by/with the particular establishment. As technology continues to grow, so too with the capabilities of this invention, it is imperative that it has the capabilities to integrate all necessary technologies which enhance the efficiency and safety of the establishment and the experiences of customers.

In one embodiment of the invention, the consoles have ISDN/Broadband et al capabilities which allow, as mentioned above, for private TN. viewing, for example, up-to-date news, media, business, stock exchange, sports coverage, etc.

Further, it will be appreciated that the establishment may also decide to display certain advertisements.

It will also be appreciated that many variations of screen may be provided.

The establishments in which the invention can be used are practically endless. Obvious places are bars, restaurants, but could equally well be used in racecourses, casinos, in hotel rooms, cinemas, theatres, concert venues, drive-through restaurants, service stations, supermarkets, department stores, aeroplanes and so on. It could also for example be used in a booking office for theatres and other events where the customer could decide which particular event they wanted, could check up on availability, check their own location of the seat they wish to purchase and then carry out the purchase in a seamless and timely manner even in advance of the event's date. One can see that in many establishments such as for example an aeroplane when you wish to order goods it is a much more useful way of ordering and a lot less cumbersome and time consuming than the system presently in use which necessitates all the goods being stocked on the particular aeroplane and carried back and forth countless times with added costs. It is envisaged that airlines will considerably cut back their overhead costs on staff and fuel by providing customer consoles in (for example) the Duty-Free area of the terminals thereby allowing for the ordering and pre-payment of goods/services by travelling customers whereby their goods may be collected upon arrival at their destination, rather than having to carry their goods on-board the aeroplane or the airline having to keep all available goods constantly in stock. And/or similarly, customers may place orders and complete their payments while on-board an aeroplane. They may receive their goods while in the air (airline permitting) or upon arrival, thus eliminating the additional work carried out by air stewards and considerably lessening fuel costs, etc. Essentially what the invention provides is the customers and staff with an entirely digital environment where all the problems inherent in present ordering payment and delivery systems no longer exist. It will be appreciated that the invention provides a cashless and largely paperless environment and it no longer needs waiters in. the sense of people having to take orders or facilitate payment transactions but simply requires preparation staff and serving staff. One of the great advantages of the present invention is that for » example menus can be updated easily, ingredients and details regarding goods can be supplied. There is no limit to the amount of information that can be supplied to a potential customer because it is relatively simple and easy to supply and does not require paper.

A further advantage to the establishment is that all goods are paid for prior to being served whereas for the customer, the customer will see all the goods and what they cost and they will think before they actually place an order. One of the great advantages of the present invention is that for example in bars and restaurants where there is necessary preparation all these are downloaded immediately to those staff so that there is no delay in an order being taken. There can also be no unfair/bias/prejudice treatment of either staff or customer as all orders are prepared in the rotational order that they have been placed by the customer. This also considerably lessens the pressure and stress currently endured by staff when having to deal with difficult or abusive customers, while ensuring that the customers are responsible and have full control over the order that they have placed and the price they have paid.

It will be appreciated that giving a person in many instances an estimated time of arrival of the particular goods is extremely customer friendly. It is also envisaged that by having the one establishment server operating in the restaurant it would be easy to , integrate purchasing and other order systems with the server. It would also be possible to give management at any time, an accurate report in real time of the amount of goods that have been sold and any other details regarding the goods that are required. Because the server is in constant contact with each of the customer consoles it is possible for the server to download any information or advertising that they wish to do.

It is envisaged that the use of a LAN will be particularly useful because a closed- circuit LAN will ensure that security is at a relatively high level. Also it avoids any possibility of external sources hacking into the system, procuring any important and sensitive information about the establishment or trying to control/having control of the content/information available on the customer consoles, server, network, staff display-screens et al. It would also be possible for example for restaurants and other establishments to offer a wider range of services than heretofore. One, for example, does not think that the purchase of tickets for concerts and other events is normally done in the confines of a restaurant or bar, however with this invention this can be relatively easy to facilitate. Any wireless communication system such as Bluetooth™ may be used.

In the specification the terms "comprise, comprises, comprised and comprising" or any variation thereof and the terms "include, includes, included and including" or any variation thereof are considered to be totally interchangeable and they should all be afforded the widest possible interpretation and vice versa.

The invention is not limited to the embodiment hereinbefore described, but may be varied in both construction physical fitting in each establishment, content and detail within the scope of the claims.

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Classifications
Classification internationaleG06Q10/00, G06Q30/00
Classification coopérativeG06Q10/087, G06Q30/06
Classification européenneG06Q30/06, G06Q10/087
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