Title:
Restaurant seating system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A seating system for use at a dining facility, such as a restaurant or ballroom, includes a plurality of movable seating units, a power supply grid, a computerized controller, and an illuminating path for directing arriving parties to available seating units. Each of the seating units includes an integral booth style seat and table supported on a base with a rechargeable battery and motor driven wheels on a bottom of the base. A wireless communication system provides communication between the controller and each of the seating units. An extendable member on each seating unit connects to the power grid via outlets in a ceiling structure to provide electric power for recharging the battery. The seating units may further be provided with a self-contained air conditioning and heating system and a touch responsive computer screen on the table top for displaying a menu, wherein patrons may place food and beverage orders by touching indicators on the screen. A credit card swipe and reader device in each of the seating units permits payment of the food and beverage check at the table.



Inventors:
Koljonen, Reino (Lake Worth, FL, US)
Application Number:
09/835016
Publication Date:
10/17/2002
Filing Date:
04/13/2001
Assignee:
KOLJONEN REINO
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C7/72; (IPC1-7): A47C7/72
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
EDELL, JOSEPH F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Robert M. DOWNEY, P.A. (BOCA RATON, FL, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A seating system for a dining establishment comprising: a plurality of seating units each comprising: an integral seat bench, table and base assembly; a plurality of wheels on said base for moving said seating unit along a floor surface; a motor in driving connection with at least one of said plurality of wheels; a battery for supplying power to said motor; means for connecting said seating unit to an external power supply; receiver means for receiving wireless signals; processor means for receiving and processing computer commands; and a central computer controller including transmitter means for sending wireless signals to said plurality of seating units for operating said motor to selectively move and position said seating units.

2. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein each of said plurality of seating units further includes air conditioning means for cooling the air temperature of the atmosphere surrounding said seat bench and table.

3. The system as recited in claim 2 wherein each of said plurality of seating units further includes heating means for warming the air temperature of the atmosphere surrounding said seat bench and said table.

4. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein said table of each of said plurality of seating units includes a touch responsive computer display for displaying information, including a menu.

5. The system as recited in claim 4 wherein said touch responsive computer screen includes means for placing orders from said menu by touching indicators on the screen.

6. The system as recited in claim 1 wherein each of said plurality of seating units include means for accepting credit card payments.

7. A seating system for a dining establishment comprising: a power supply grid including a plurality of electrical outlets; a plurality of seating units each comprising: an integral seat bench, table and base assembly; a plurality of wheels on said base for moving said seating unit along a floor surface; a motor in driving connection with at least one of said plurality of wheels; a battery for supplying power to said motor; means for connecting said seating unit to an external power supply; receiver means for receiving wireless signals; processor means for receiving and processing computer commands; a central computer controller including transmitter means for sending wireless signals to said plurality of seating units for operating said motor to selectively move and position said seating units; and means for creating an illuminated path on a floor of the dining establishment to direct guests to a select one of said plurality of seating units.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates to a restaurant seating system and, more particularly, a seating system comprising a plurality of powered seating units which are movable in response to computer commands delivered by a wireless signal in order to arrange the plurality of seating units as needed, and an illuminating path indicator for directing guests to their table.

[0003] 2. Discussion of the Related Art

[0004] It is often necessary to move the tables and chairs in a restaurant to accommodate for different functions. For instance, a large party of 8 or more guests may require several tables to be moved together so that the party can be seated together. Other times, it is necessary to arrange tables to view entertainment. For example, at a wedding reception, it might be desirous to arrange the tables and chairs around a dance floor and the band. In another instance, it might be desirous to arrange tables in a manner which takes advantage of the restaurant's view. For example, on the 4th of July, the tables might be arranged so that all guests can view a fireworks display through the restaurant's windows. It is also convenient to be able to move the tables and chairs when vacuuming, sweeping, and/or mopping the floors at the end of the evening. Moving the tables to accommodate the above purposes requires a significant amount of labor and can be time consuming and costly, particularly if a large number of tables are moved on a daily basis.

[0005] Beyond the need to move and arrange furniture, the operation of a restaurant, catering hall, dining club, etc. requires a significant number of employees to service guests. For instance, in a busy restaurant, a host/hostess team of 3-6 employees may be needed at the hostess podium to take reservations, maintain a waiting list, greet arriving guests, and escort guests to their table as they are paged from the waiting list. Another team of employees is required to wait on tables in order to take orders from the guests, deliver the food orders to the kitchen and separately deliver beverage orders to the bar. Once the food and beverages are prepared, the waiter/waitress must then deliver them to the appropriate tables. Often, a team of several waiters/waitresses wait on a group of tables, with some waiters taking orders and serving beverages, while the other waiters deliver the food from the kitchen to the appropriate tables. A separate staff is maintained in the kitchen to cook food and clean dishes, utensils, etc. Finally, a team of employees is needed to buss tables, clean floors, and restrooms, and to generally maintain the overall cleanliness of the restaurant.

[0006] The need to maintain a large staff of employees tremendously increases the operating costs of a restaurant. Also, the operating efficiency of a restaurant can be severely impacted if several employees fail to show up for work. For example, food orders are often delayed when a waitress is required to wait on more tables than usual to cover for another waiter/waitress who calls in sick. Further, the need to move tables at the end of the evening for purposes of cleaning often requires payments of costly overtime wages. Accordingly, in view of the foregoing, there is an urgent need in the restaurant industry for a seating system which significantly increases the operating efficiency of a restaurant while reducing overhead costs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] The present invention is directed to a seating system for use at a dining facility, such as a restaurant or ballroom, includes a plurality of movable seating units, a power supply grid, a computerized controller, and an illuminating path for directing arriving parties to available seating units. Each of the seating units includes an integral booth style seat and table supported on a base with a rechargeable battery and motor driven wheels on a bottom of the base. A wireless communication system provides communication between the controller and each of the seating units. A telescoping antenna on each seating unit connects to the power grid via outlets in a ceiling structure to provide electric power for recharging the battery. The seating units may further be provided with a self-contained air conditioning and heating system and a touch responsive computer screen on the table top for displaying a menu, wherein patrons may place food and beverage orders by touching indicators on the screen. A credit card swipe and reader device in each of the seating units permits payment of the food and beverage check at the table.

OBJECTS AND ADVANTAGES OF THE INVENTION

[0008] With the foregoing in mind, it is a primary object of the present invention to provide a seating system for a dining facility, such as a restaurant or ballroom, which includes a plurality of motorized seating units, each comprising seats and a table constructed as an integral unit, and wherein the seating units are movable in response to wireless signal commands from a centralized computer controller, to thereby move the plurality of seating units into various arrangements to accommodate for different functions and cleaning of the restaurant.

[0009] It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a restaurant seating system which includes an illuminating path indicator to direct guests from a hostess podium or dining room entry to an appropriate table so that the guests may be seated without the need of a hostess escort.

[0010] It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a seating system wherein the plurality of seating units each include a booth style bench surrounding a table integral with a base with motor driven wheels.

[0011] It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a seating system wherein the plurality of seating units are each equipped with a self-contained air conditioning and heating system with guest operated climate control.

[0012] It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a seating system wherein the plurality of seating units each include a touch responsive computer screen menu mounted within the table top to display items on the menu to guests seated at the seating unit and to further permit ordering of food and beverages by touching designated areas next to menu items on the touch screen.

[0013] It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a seating system for a restaurant or like establishment which permits credit card payment by guests at the table, without the need of a waiter/waitress.

[0014] It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a seating system wherein the plurality of seating units are each equipped with independent entertainment systems including stereo and video, with guest operated controls for making individual audio and/or television selections.

[0015] It is yet a further object of the present invention to provide a seating system including a power supply grid for supplying electric power to recharge batteries in each of the plurality of seating units, and further including means for interconnecting each of the seating units with the power supply grid.

[0016] These and other objects and advantages of the present invention are more readily apparent with reference to the following detailed description and accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0017] For a fuller understanding of the nature of the present invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

[0018] FIG. 1 is a top front perspective view of a seating unit of the present invention;

[0019] FIG. 2 is an elevational view, in partial cross section, showing the seating unit;

[0020] FIG. 3A is a top plan view showing an arrangement of the seating units of the seating system, and the illuminating path director, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0021] FIG. 3B is a top plan view showing an alternative arrangement of the seating units;

[0022] FIG. 3C is a top plan view showing another arrangement of the seating units;

[0023] FIG. 3D is a top plan view showing yet another arrangement of the plurality of seating units;

[0024] FIG. 3E is a top plan view of still another arrangement of the plurality of seating units;

[0025] FIG. 3F is a top plan view showing the seating units arranged to one side of the dining facility to facilitate cleaning of the floors; and

[0026] FIG. 4 is an isolated elevational view showing the ceiling structure in accordance with the preferred embodiment of the seating system, including the power supply grid and power outlet ports, air conditioning and heat supply, illuminating path directory system and table lights, and a telescoping connector of one of the table units received in an outlet of the ceiling structure.

[0027] Like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views of the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0028] Referring to the several views of the drawings, the seating system of the present invention is shown and is generally indicated as 10. The seating system 10 includes a plurality of seating units 20 which are movable about the floor of a dining establishment so that the plurality of seating units can be arranged for various occasions as well as for cleaning the floor of the dining establishment.

[0029] Each of the seating units 20 consists of an integral structure including a seat bench 22, table 24, and base 26. In a preferred embodiment, the seat 22 is of a booth-style including a one-piece bench with a seat base 30 and back rest 32 formed and configured in a generally circular or oval configuration. The booth-style seat bench 22 may further be provided with a privacy wall 34 which extends up above the back rest 32, as seen in FIGS. 1 and 2. The seat base 30 and back rest 32 may be covered with a cushioned upholstery or, alternatively, formed with a plastic molded surface which is easy to clean. The table 24 supported on one or more pedestals 25 is preferably formed and configured to correspond with the configuration of the booth-style seat bench 22. The pedestal 25 is fastened to the base and may be made to swing outwardly from the seat bench to permit ease of entry and exit from the seating unit, particularly for elderly or handicapped persons.

[0030] As seen in FIG. 2, each seating unit 20 is provided with a plurality of wheels 40 mounted to the base 26 to permit movement of the seating unit along the floor surface of the dining establishment. In a preferred embodiment, at least one of the wheels 40′ is motor driven 42 by a motor supported within the base 26. A battery 44 supplies power to the motor 42 and other components within the seating unit, as described more fully hereinafter. A processor 45 receives computer commands, via wireless signals through antenna 49, from a computer control system to control operation of the motor 42, wheel direction and other components in the seating unit. An extendible member 46 moves between a lowered position, as seen in FIG. 1, and an extended position, as seen in FIG. 2, to permit connection with a power supply outlet 64 in the ceiling structure 60 of the dining establishment for recharging the battery 44. The extendible member 46 may further be provided with means for connection with an air conditioning and heating system within the ceiling structure of the dining establishment to supply air conditioned air or heat to the seating units. In this instance, the air conditioned air or heat travels down through the extendible member 46 and exits through vents 48 positioned about the interior of the seating unit. Each of the seating units 20 may further be provided with a self-contained air conditioning and heating system and an independent climate control. In this instance, air nozzles 52 in an overhead structure 50 are operable to release cool air, in a similar manner to that found on a commercial airliner.

[0031] Each of the seating units 20 may further be provided with audio and video means, including a plurality of speakers 54 fitted about the interior of the seating unit, preferably within the wall structure which extends above the back rest, as seen in FIGS. 1 and 2. A television monitor 56 may further be mounted within the interior wall 34 with independent controls to permit guests seated at the table to selectively view various television, cable, satellite, DVD and/or videotape programs. Controls may also be provided to allow playing of video games at the table while waiting to be served. The monitor 56 may also be in communication with one or more closed circuit cameras in the kitchen so that guests at the table can watch the chef prepare their food. A stereo system may further be provided for playing various music selections from radio or CD.

[0032] In a preferred embodiment, the table top is provided with a touch responsive computer screen 70, similar to that used for automatic teller machines. The touch responsive computer screen is adapted to display a menu and other information to guests seated at the table. By touching indicators 72 next to menu items, the guests at the table can enter their food and beverage orders which are delivered, via wireless signal, to the kitchen of the dining establishment. In this manner, the guests seated at the table can order at their convenience, without having to wait for a waiter/waitress to take their order. A credit card reader device 74 may further be provided to permit the guests to pay the dining check by credit card without the assistance of a waiter/waitress.

[0033] In a preferred embodiment, the ceiling structure 60 of the dining establishment is fitted with a power supply grid 62 including a plurality of electrical outlet ports 64, as seen in FIG. 4. The outlet ports 64 may be spaced, in a grid-type arrangement, throughout the ceiling for receiving a connecting member 66 on the top of the extending member 46 of each of the seating units. The connecting member 66 is specifically shaped and configured for guiding receipt within any of the electrical outlet ports 64 in the ceiling structure 60. Once received within one of the outlet ports 64, the connecting member 66 makes contact with an electrical contact element 80. Upward movement of the connector member 66 against the contact 80 results in movement of the contact to a closed position with an electric power supply switch 82, thereby connecting the connector member 66 with the power supply, to deliver electrical power to the battery 44 and other components of the seating unit 20. The outlet port 64 may further be connected with an air supply 84 for directing air conditioned air or heat downwardly through the extendible member 46 and out through the vents 48 of the connected seating unit.

[0034] As seen in FIGS. 1 and 4, the system is further provided with means 90 for creating an illuminated path on the floor to guide arriving guests from a hostess podium to an available table. In a preferred embodiment, the means 90 for creating an illuminated path includes a plurality of laser light emitting devices 92 mounted at predetermined, spaced positions in the ceiling structure 60, preferably in a grid pattern. The laser light emitting devices 92 are specifically adapted to direct a beam of light down onto the floor surface 94 so that a small circle of light 96 appears on the floor surface 94. Each of the laser light emitting devices 92 are connected to a computer control system 100, including a central computer control 102 at the hostess podium 104. Upon determining an available seating unit 20 for a party to be seated, the computer control system 100 selectively activates certain ones of the laser light emitting devices 92 in the ceiling structure 60, according to a most direct path to the available seating unit 20. Upon activation of the selected laser light emitting devices by the computer control system, a series of dots or circles 96 appear on the floor creating a path from the hostess podium to the available seating unit. Once the party has made their way to the seating unit, the illuminated laser light emitting devices are deactivated. The ceiling structure may further be provided with down lights 108 for providing light on the table and surrounding area of each of the seating units.

[0035] The computer controller 102 includes means for selectively commanding movement of any individual one or all of the seating units. Specifically, a specific identified seating unit can be moved and repositioned by a hostess or manager at the hostess podium, by entering a command on the computer controller. The computer controller may further be programmed to move all of the seating units 20 to assume a predetermined arrangement or configuration. For instance, as seen in FIGS. 3B-3E, the seating units may be moved according to various arrangements for particular occasions. Specifically, in FIGS. 3B and 3D, the seating units 20 can be moved and arranged so that they are positioned in a manner which permits optimal viewing out of the windows of the establishment. Moreover, selected seating units can be positioned and arranged in a group for larger parties. For instance, in FIG. 3D, the two seating units 20′ are arranged to face one another so that guests seated at both tables can converse with one another. Additionally, guests requesting privacy can have their seating unit 20″ moved and positioned away from the other seating units 20. Referring to FIGS. 3C and 3E, the seating units may be positioned around a stage 110 or dance floor 120 for particular functions and/or entertainment performances. Referring to FIG. 3F, the seating units can be programmed to move to one side 130 of the dining establishment to permit cleaning of the floor on the opposite side 140. Specifically, at the end of the evening, when the dining establishment closes, the computer system can be programmed to automatically move all of the seating units to the one side 130, so that the cleaning service can vacuum, sweep and/or mop the floor on the opposite side 140 of the establishment. Once the side 140 is cleaned, the seating units can be moved to the clean side 140 to permit further cleaning of the remainder 130 of the floor surface.

[0036] While the instant invention has been shown and described in accordance with practical and preferred embodiments thereof, it is recognized that departures from the instant disclosure are contemplated within the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the following claims and as interpreted under the doctrine of equivalents.