Title:
Apparatus and method for drawing the attention of a server in a restaurant
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus for drawing the attention of a server in a restaurant is disclosed. The apparatus may be comprised of a base, an elongated member having a first end and a second end, a lighting device, and a switch device. The first end of the elongated member can be attached to the base, so that the elongated member is substantially perpendicular to the base. The lighting device may be attached to the elongated member near the second end of the elongated member. The switch device can be used to turn on the lighting device. The base can be placed on to a tabletop in a restaurant and the lighting device can be turned on by using the switch device to draw the attention of the server.



Inventors:
Wilson, Warren R. (Phoenixville, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/229956
Publication Date:
03/23/2006
Filing Date:
09/19/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
362/154, 362/431, 362/99
International Classes:
A47B19/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PAYNE, SHARON E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Mr. Walter J. Tencza Jr. (Metuchen, NJ, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. An apparatus for drawing the attention of a server in a restaurant comprising: a base; an elongated member having a first end and a second end; a lighting device; and a switch device; wherein the first end of the elongated member is attached to the base, so that the elongated member is substantially perpendicular to the base; wherein the lighting device is attached to the elongated member near the second end of the elongated member; and wherein the switch device can be used to turn on the lighting device.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a battery residing within the base; and and wherein the battery provides power for turning on the lighting device.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a means for holding a menu of a list of restaurant items in a standing position substantially perpendicular to the base, so that at least a portion of the list of restaurant items can be seen.

4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the elongated member is a hollow tube.

5. The apparatus of claim 3 further comprising the menu of the list of restaurant items; and wherein the elongated member has a length and the menu has a length, which is substantially less than the length of the elongated member.

6. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a basket portion; wherein the basket portion is fixed to the base and the lighting device can be seen above the basket portion.

7. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a receptacle, which can be attached and detached from the base.

8. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein the receptacle includes one or more dividers for providing two or more compartments in the receptacle.

9. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a rear receptacle which can be attached and detached to the rear of the base; and a side receptacle, which can be attached and detached to the side of the base.

10. A method for drawing the attention of a server in a restaurant comprising: providing a base; providing an elongated member having a first end and a second end; providing a lighting device; and providing a switch device; wherein the first end of the elongated member is configured to be attached to the base, so that the elongated member is substantially perpendicular to the base; wherein the lighting device is configured to be attached to the elongated member near the second end of the elongated member; and wherein the switch device can be used to turn on the lighting device.

11. The method of claim 10 further comprising providing a battery residing within the base; and wherein the battery provides power for turning on the lighting device.

12. The method of claim 10 further comprising providing a means for holding a menu of a list of restaurant items in a standing position substantially perpendicular to the base, so that at least a portion of the list of restaurant items can be seen.

13. The method of claim 10 wherein the elongated member is configured to be a hollow tube.

14. The method of claim 12 further comprising providing the menu of the list of restaurant items; and wherein the elongated member is configured to have a length and the menu is configured to have a length, which is substantially less than the length of the elongated member.

15. The method of claim 10 further comprising placing the base on to a tabletop in a restaurant.

16. The method of claim 15 further comprising turning on the lighting device by using the switch device to draw the attention of the server.

17. The method of claim 10 further comprising providing a basket portion; and wherein the basket portion is fixed to the base and the lighting device can be seen above the basket portion.

18. The method of claim 10 further comprising providing a receptacle, which can be attached and detached from the base.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein providing one or more dividers in the receptacle for providing two or more compartments in the receptacle.

20. The method of claim 10 further comprising providing a rear receptacle which can be attached and detached to the rear of the base; and providing a side receptacle, which can be attached and detached to the side of the base.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

The present application claims the priority of provisional application Ser. No. 60/522,375 filed on Sep. 22, 2004, applicant Warren Wilson, titled “TOUCH AND SERVE”.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to improved methods and apparatus concerning getting or drawing the attention of a server, such as a waiter or waitress, in a restaurant.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Typically, in the prior art, individuals sitting at a table in a restaurant will have to call out to a server or make hand signals to the server to draw the server's attention. The individuals may also have to stop socializing and watch out for the server to get the server's attention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one embodiment of the present invention, an apparatus for drawing the attention of a server in a restaurant is provided. The apparatus may be comprised of a base, an elongated member having a first end and a second end, a lighting device, and a switch device. The first end of the elongated member can be attached to the base, so that the elongated member is substantially perpendicular to the base. The lighting device may be attached to the elongated member near the second end of the elongated member. The switch device can be used to turn on the lighting device.

The apparatus may be further comprised of a battery residing within the base. The apparatus may also be comprised of a means for holding a menu of a list of restaurant items in a standing position substantially perpendicular to the base, so that at least a portion of the list of restaurant items can be seen. The elongated member may be a hollow tube.

The apparatus may be further comprised of the menu of the list of restaurant items. The elongated member may have a length and the menu may have a length, which is substantially less than the length of the elongated member.

The apparatus may be further comprised of a basket portion, wherein the basket portion is fixed to the base and the lighting device can be seen above the basket portion. The apparatus may further include a receptacle, which can be attached and detached from the base. The receptacle may include one or more dividers for providing two or more compartments in the receptacle. The apparatus may include a rear receptacle, which can be attached and detached to the rear of the base, and a side receptacle, which can be attached and detached to the side of the base.

The present invention in one or more embodiments may also include a method for drawing the attention of a server in a restaurant comprising providing a base, providing an elongated member having a first end and a second end, providing a lighting device, and providing a switch device. The method may also include placing the base on to a tabletop in a restaurant and turning on the lighting device by using the switch device to draw the attention of the server.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a front perspective view of an apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 shows a side view of the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 shows a schematic diagram of components for use with the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4A shows a front perspective view of another apparatus in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4B shows a close up front perspective view of a portion of the apparatus of FIG. 4A;

FIG. 5 shows a front perspective view of another apparatus in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 shows a front perspective view of another apparatus in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7A shows a front left perspective view of a receptacle of the apparatus of FIG. 6;

FIG. 7B shows a front right perspective view of another receptacle of the apparatus of FIG. 6;

FIG. 7C shows a front right perspective view of a receptacle with dividers of the apparatus of FIG. 6 in a closed state;

FIG. 7D shows a front right perspective view of the receptacle with dividers of FIG. 7C in an opened state;

FIG. 8A shows a front right perspective view of a base and other components of the apparatus of FIG. 6;

FIG. 8B shows a front left perspective view of the base and other components of the apparatus of FIG. 6; and

FIG. 8C shows a rear view of the component of FIG. 8A.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a front perspective view of an apparatus 1 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 2 shows a side view of the apparatus 1 of FIG. 1. FIG. 3 shows a schematic diagram 100 of components for use with the apparatus 1 of FIG. 1.

The apparatus 1 includes a lighting device 10, a member 12, a menu sheet, pamphlet, or brochure 14, a clip or stand 16, and a base 18.

The lighting device 10 is typically fixed to a first end 12a of the member 12 as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. The member 12 has a second end 12b, which is typically fixed to the base 18 so that the member 12 is substantially perpendicular to a surface 18a of the base 18 as shown in FIG. 2. The member 12 should be substantially rigid so that it remains in a substantially perpendicular position with respect to surface 18a. The member 12 can be a hollow metal tube made of aluminum, steel, or stainless steel and should not be easily bent or altered from the position substantially perpendicular to the surface 18a.

The surface 18a may be circular or some other shape. The base 18 may include a surface 18b surrounding the base 18 and a bottom surface 18c.

The clip or stand 16 is typically fixed to the surface 18a of the base 18 as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. The clip or stand 16 may be comprised of a front portion 16a and a back portion 16b, and may have a gap 16c into which the menu sheet, pamphlet, or brochure 14 may be at least partially inserted as shown in FIG. 2. The menu sheet 14 may be inserted until it hits the bottom 16d of the clip or stand 16. The portions 16a and 16b of the clip or stand 16 may be substantially perpendicular to the surface 18a allowing the writing or print such as “Menu” shown on surface 14a of menu 14, to be seen from the front perspective view of FIG. 1. The surface 14a would typically include a printed list of menu items, such as meals, or drinks, or desserts such as at location 14b. A button 20 may be located and attached to the surface 18a of the base 18. The button 20 may be connected to a switch device 106 shown in FIG. 3.

The schematic diagram 100 shown in FIG. 3 includes a battery 102, a resistor 104, a switch device 106, and a lighting device 108. The switch device 106 may include switches 106a and 106b. The battery 102 may be located inside of the base 18. The base 18 may be a hollow housing made of steel chrome plating or stainless steel with various components located inside. The battery 102 has a positive terminal 102a, which is electrically connected by a conductor 110, such as a wire, to a first end of the resistor 104. A second end of resistor 104 is electrically connected the switch device 106. The switch device 106 is electrically connected to a conductor 114. The conductor 114 is electrically connected to a lighting device 108. The lighting device 108 includes light emitting diodes 108a, 108b, and 108c. The lighting device 108 may include less LEDs such as a single LED or other types of lighting devices. The lighting device 108 is electrically connected to a first end of conductor 116. A second end of conductor 116 is electrically connected to a negative terminal 102b of the battery 102.

The lighting device 10 may be considered to be part of the lighting device 108 or the lighting device 10 may be considered to be a housing for the lighting device 108. The push button 20 may be part of the switch device 106. The conductor 110 and resistor 104 may be located in the base 18. The conductor 114 may be located inside the member 12, such as inside a hollow tube if the member is a hollow tube, and the conductor 114 may be longer than shown in FIG. 3.

In operation, when an individual presses down in the direction D1 shown in FIG. 2, on the button 20, the button 20 causes the switch device to be put into a conductive or “ON” state, such that a circuit including the battery 102, resistor 104, switch device 106, and lighting device 108 in completed. As a result of the completed circuit, the LEDs 108a-c light up. The LEDs 108a-c are designed to stay lit until the button 20 is pressed again.

An individual dining at a restaurant would press the button 20 to complete the circuit shown in FIG. 3, in order to light the LEDs (light emitting diodes) 108a-c. The individual would then stop pressing the button 20 and the LEDs 108a-c would remain lit. A server, such as a waiter or waitress, would then see the lit LEDs 108a-c emanating through lighting device 108 and lighting device 10 and the server would come to the particular table where the individual is sitting to provide service to the individual.

The apparatus 1 may be placed on a tabletop 2 as shown in FIG. 1. The tabletop 2 may be part of a table in a restaurant.

The lighting devices 10 and 108 and the LEDs 108a-c may emit red light. The button 20 may be colored red. The surface 18a of the base 18 may be circular and may have a diameter of four inches. The base 18 may be cylindrical and may be made of stainless steel, or steel chrome plating. The base 18 and the hollow tube 12 may be chrome plated, or aluminum so that they can be easily cleaned. The battery 102 may be a standard 9-volt battery. The battery 102 may also be comprised of two AAA batteries and other arrangements for the battery 102 are possible. When the LEDs 108a-c are on, the lighting devices 10,108 and LEDs 108a-c may be shut off by pressing the button 20. When the LEDs 108a-c are off, the lighting devices 10, 108, and 108a-c may be turned on by pressing the button 20.

The hollow tube 12 may have a length L1, shown in FIG. 2, which may be twenty-one inches. The hollow tube 12 may have a width W1, shown in FIG. 2, which may be ¼ inch. The button 20 may be replaced by two buttons, with either button turning the LED on or off. The resistor 104 may be a thirty-nine ohm resistor.

One or more embodiments of the present invention allow a restaurant quicker turnaround of tables, thereby increasing profit and customer satisfaction. The server has a happier and more satisfied guest, thereby increasing the server's tips and restaurant owner's profits with higher table turnover.

FIG. 4A shows a front perspective view of an apparatus 200 in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 4B shows a close up front perspective view of a portion of the apparatus 200 of FIG. 4A, below line L2. The apparatus 200 includes a lighting device 210, a member 212, a menu 214, a clip 216, a bracket section or portion 222, a basket 224, and a base 218.

The lighting device 210, member 212, menu sheet 214, and clip 216 may be similar to or identical to the lighting device 10, member 12, menu sheet 14, and clip 16 shown in FIG. 1. The bracket portion 222 may include members 222a, 222b, 222c, 222d, and 222d, each of which may be a rigid member such as a metal rod. The member 222a may be fixed to the clip 216 and to the member 212, substantially near the center of member 222a. The members 222c and 222e may have first ends fixed to opposing ends of the basket 224. The members 222c and 222e may have second ends, which are fixed to first ends of members 222b and 222d, respectively. The member 212 may be rigidly fixed to the base 218 similar to or identical to the manner in which member 12 is rigidly fixed to the base 18. The member 212 may be fixed to the base 218 through the basket portion 224 at a location substantially central in the chamber or receptacle area 224a of the basket portion 224.

The base 218 may be a rectangular block or may be any other three dimensional shape. The base 218 may be comprised of top surface 218a, side 218b, and front surface 218c. The base 218 may also be comprised of a bottom surface opposite the top surface (not shown), a side opposite side 218b (not shown), and a rear surface opposite the front surface 218c (not shown). The base 218 may include circuitry or components similar to or identical to the circuitry or components shown in FIG. 3, as previously described with respect to base 18. The base 218 may have a button [or two buttons] 220 located on surface or side 218a, which may be similar to or identical to button 20 of FIG. 1.

The basket portion 224 may be comprised of horizontal members 226a, 226b, 226c, and 226d, vertical members 228a, 228b, 228c, and 228d, vertical members 230a, 230b, 230c, and 230d, vertical members 232a, 232b, 232c, and 232d, horizontal members 234a, 234b, 234c, and 234d, bottom horizontal members 236a, 236b, 236c, and 236d, and bottom horizontal members 238a, 238b, 238c, and 238d. The members 226a-d, 228a-d, 230a-d, 232a-d, 234a-d, and 236a-d may be rigid metal and may be fixed together as shown in FIG. 4B.

In operation, a restaurant server or other employee, can place items such as condiment containers into the basket portion 224 shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B. For example, pepper, salt, ketchup, mustard or other items can be placed inside or partially placed inside the chamber 224a of the basket 224. The lighting device 210 can be operated in the same manner as lighting device 10. The length of the member 212 may be similar to the length of the member 12, allowing the lighting device 210 to be seen above the menu 214 and any condiments inside chamber 224a of basket 224.

FIG. 5 shows a front perspective view of an apparatus 300 in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. The apparatus 300 may be identical to the apparatus 200 of FIG. 4A with the exception that the clip 216 has been replaced by a circular clip 316, for holding the menu 214.

FIG. 6 shows a front perspective view of an apparatus 400 in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. The apparatus 400 includes a lighting device 410, a member 412, a receptacle with dividers 413, receptacles 416 and 417, and a base 418. The base 418 has located thereon a button 420. The designation “PUSH FOR SERVICE” is shown on the base 418 in front of the button 420.

FIG. 7A shows a left front perspective view of the receptacle 417 of the apparatus 400 of FIG. 6. The receptacle 417 includes sides 417a, 417b, 417c, and 417e, and a bottom 417d. The sides 417a and 417b are slanted or triangular so that any item placed in that portion of the holder can easily be removed. The side 417e is shorter than side 417c for easy access. Fixed to side 417b, approximately centrally, is a protrusion 419. The protrusion 419 has portions 419a, 419b, and a V-shaped portion 419c. The portion 419a has a width of W1 which may be slightly less than the width W3 of the opening 418f shown in FIG. 8A of the base 418. The portion 419b has a width of W2 which may be slightly less than the length L1 of the opening 418f shown in FIG. 8A of the base 418. The width W2 of the portion 419b should be more than the width W3 of the opening 418f so that the receptacle 417 can be snapped in place, attached to the base 418.

FIG. 7B shows a right perspective view of the receptacle 416 of the apparatus 400 of FIG. 6. The receptacle 416 may be identical to the receptacle 417, except that a protrusion 421 is located on the right side 416a of the receptacle 416 rather than the left side as for receptacle 417.

FIG. 7C shows a front perspective view of the receptacle with dividers 413 in a closed state. The receptacle with dividers 413 includes a base portion 414 and a slide out portion 415. FIG. 7D shows the receptacle with dividers 413 in an opened state. The base portion 414 has a protrusion 423 attached to the base portion 414. The protrusion 423 can be identical to the protrusion 419 and 421 shown in FIGS. 7A and 7B, respectively.

The base portion 414 has sides 414b, 414c, and 414d, and a bottom 414f. There is an indentation 414a in the side 414c. The sides 414b, 414c, and 414d, and bottom 414f partially enclose a chamber 414e into which and out of which the slide out portion 415 can be slid. The slide out portion 415 may include a rail which is not shown and which can slide in the indentation 414a. The slide out portion 415 includes dividers 415a, 415b, 415c, 415d, 415e, and 415f, sides 415j, 415g, and 415s (opposite side 415j), bottom 415u and slots 415k, 415L, 415m, 415n, 415o, and 415p. For every slot on the side 415s, there is an opposing slot (not shown) on the interior of side 415t. The dividers 415a-f fit into the slots 415k-p, respectively. There is a flange 415q on top of side 415s and a flange 415r on top of side 415j. There are also feet or protrusions 415i and 415h on the bottom 415u. The receptacle with dividers 413 forms a plurality of receptacles for storing restaurant items such as packets of sugar, jelly, or butter.

FIG. 8A shows a front right perspective view of the base 418 and other components. FIG. 8A shows the base 418, the lighting device 410, and the member 412. The base 418 has a portion 418a, which slopes downwards, a flat portion 418b, and a raised portion 418c. The base 418 also has a front surface 418d and a side surface 418e. There is a slot or opening 418f in the side surface 418e. The slot 418f has a length of L1 and a width of W3 and the protrusion 419 can be inserted into the slot 418f by first turning the receptacle 417 so that the longest dimension of the portion 419b of the protrusion 419 lies along the length L1 of the slot 418f. After the protrusion 419 is inserted, the protrusion 419 is then turned to place the protrusion into an alignment with the base 418 as shown in FIG. 6.

FIG. 8B shows a front left perspective view of the base 418 and other components. The base 418 includes side 418g having a slot 418h. The protrusion 421 of the receptacle 416 can be inserted into the slot 418h in a similar manner that the protrusion 419 was inserted into the slot 418. The slot 418f and 418h can be sized the same.

FIG. 8C shows a rear view of the base 418 and other components. FIG. 8C shows rear surface 418i on portion 418a. FIG. 8C also shows a portion 412a of the member 412. Portion 412a may also be replaced by a separate member connected to the member 412. Allowing the member 412 to extend into the base 418 as shown in FIG. 8C, lends stability to the member 412 and helps to prevent the member 412 from tipping over with respect to the base 418. FIG. 8C also shows wires 412c and 412b which are coming out of portion 412a.

The base also includes opening or slot 418j in the surface 418i. The receptacle with dividers 413 can be attached to the rear surface 418i by placing the receptacle with dividers 413 so that the longest dimension of the protrusion 423 is along the length L2 of the slot 418j. The receptacle with dividers 413 can then be inserted into the slot 418j and turned to snap 413 in place and in the alignment with the base 418 shown in FIG. 6.

The embodiment of FIGS. 6-8C may use the same circuitry as shown in FIG. 3 and/or as used in previous embodiments. After the apparatus has been assembled as shown in FIG. 6, the apparatus 400 may be operated similar to the previous embodiments of FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 4A, 4B, and 5.

Although the invention has been described by reference to particular illustrative embodiments thereof, many changes and modifications of the invention may become apparent to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is therefore intended to include within this patent all such changes and modifications as may reasonably and properly be included within the scope of the present invention's contribution to the art.