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Diggity Drive Up Sit-Down Restaurant Goes Server Free

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- When you go to a sit-down restaurant, you're probably used to being waited on. The team behind Tavern on France has come up with a new concept, a server-free restaurant. The idea is to combat the minimum wage increase by using technology to cut down on costs and reduce the number of employees.

It's the first restaurant concept of its kind in Minnesota.

"It kind of reminded me of a self-serve, 'going through the grocery store' kind of thing," Melissa Schmidtz said.

Diggity Drive Up in Coon Rapids is changing the traditional sit-down restaurant experience. The restaurant is server-free, said Anoush Ansari, managing partner at Hemisphere Restaurant Group, the team behind the new concept.

"We wanted to bring the Americana food with high tech, so you walk in and you find what you want, you order it the way you want it," Ansari said.

Customers find a touch screen kiosk near the entrance where they can go through the menu and place an order, then pay with a swipe of a credit card.

"It gave you options on what you wanted, what sauce you wanted, what drink you wanted," Carsen Cary said.

Then you pick up your order. The approximate wait time is 6 minutes. What this concept does is cut down on staff by 50 percent, Ansari said.

"Having employees is very costly, and we have full-service restaurants and we know what it means when minimum wage goes up for everybody. This is one way that we can keep our margins where we want them to be, with use of the technology," Ansari said.

Ansari said it will take a year and a half to get a return on their investment in the technology, but he believes it's worth it. Customers didn't seem to mind the lack of face to face contact with a server.

"It was different -- very different -- but it was all self-explanatory," Schmidtz said.

And Ansari said there is one more bonus for his team.

"The iPad never calls in sick. It needs the occasional charge just like us, but it's always there for you and we have back up equipment if we need to," Ansari said.

There's also an option to order in advance through your iPhone and pick it up in a drive-up stall when you arrive.

Diggity Drive Up opens to the public on Thursday.

Minnesota's minimum wage will go from the current $6.15 an hour to $9.50 an hour by 2016.

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