I think the biggest problem with an automated re-order by a "smart appliance" is that there is still a reliance on user input. The system may know that 5 steaks were ordered in the last hour and we need to order 5 more, but did they account for the 7 the owner took home to feed his family and friends?
I would like to see the world of food service professionals become even more friendly to the world of computers. Except for corporate food service entities, it is very difficult to begin a long distance career change or search. If you go check out monster.com, it has very few positions and resumes available for our industries v. a great many others.
I love the capability of doing my Sysco order online, knowing immediately what's in stock and what's not (if the picker and packers get it on the right truck is a different story...). In DC I had both a produce and seafood company I could also order from online. Loved it -- and it worked as long as they kept their info up to date -- thus the vicious cycle begins! For it to be worth their time we have to use it, to be worth our time, it has to be correct and valid info...
I love the way that a computer allows for a wide variety of opinions and an exchange of ideas, fresh taste buds so to speak.
I've been working with a friend of mine to bring her up to the computer age, it's been interesting to see her eyes light up over the possibilities.
Regarding your questions about reservations, etc: There are pluses and minuses. Yes, having your menu on a website is a good thing -- if it is kept current and up-to-date! (I think I've gone off on this subject elsewhere). If you are entering the realm of online reservations, you HAVE to make a major commitment again to keeping your web availability current and up-to-date. This means not only uploading your han-taken reservations to the system, but also downloading the ones available. There are programs out there that do take care of these. The alternative is to take e-mail requests and make you you respond promptly! Too many places do not follow through!
I have 2 places that I work with that take online reservations. One, I select my time, etc., and get back an immediate response and "confirmation number. The other, I e-mail a request and I may get a response 2 or 3 days later! By then, I've called in and made the reservation! I prefer making reservations for my guest in a format where I have a piece of paper with all pertinant info on it than saying I thinkk you have a reservation, I did request it...