Burgermaster server Jody Sisson, right, gets help from a staffer with a new iPod Touch ordering system.

Burgermaster hasn’t changed much since the early 1950s.

The famous Seattle joint serves up mouth-watering burgers and delectable shakes, delivering the treats directly to your car window.

Since the early days, servers took customer orders by writing them down on a pad of paper, and then notifying the kitchen staff via an intercom system located near the drive-in parking slots.

Fast. Efficient. Fun.

But, oh the times they are a changin’ at Burgermaster.

Servers now are taking orders and completing transactions using iPod Touches. I happened to randomly encounter the new system at the Aurora Burgermaster Tuesday evening, the first night of testing.

Part-time server Jody Sisson, who has worked on-and-off at the Aurora Burgermaster since 1972, was still trying to figure things out when she took my order Tuesday.

“This may be my swan song,” said Sisson with a laugh after inputting my order on the new iPod Touch. As with any new technology, she said there have been glitches, and new techniques to learn. The biggest challenge so far has been accommodating customized orders from customers, and attempting to input those orders into the system properly.

burgermaster-class“We have lots of items, and no one just orders it like it comes,” said Sisson, who when not buzzing around the Burgermaster lot works in administration for the City of Seattle.

“I do fine on the computer at my other job,” said Sisson, adding that the fast-paced environment of a restaurant makes it tougher to implement technology.

Nonetheless, Sisson, who used tips from Burgermaster to help pay her way through the University of Washington, said she’s going to try to adapt. (I tried to make it easy on Sisson Tuesday night by paying with cash, something she seemed to appreciate).

Bob Morris, general manager of the Aurora Burgermaster, said there’s one simple reason for the new iPod Touch ordering system: Speed.

Burgermaster lover Bill Gates
Burgermaster lover Bill Gates

“We’re trying to speed things up,” said Morris, adding that similar ordering systems are being rolled out at the other two drive-ins.  It’s too early to say whether the system will take root. “It is in its infancy,” Morris said. “I can’t even judge it right now. Check back with me in a month.”

Burgermaster is a local institution, and its connection to the tech community is strong. In the early days of Microsoft, the Bellevue Burgermaster became the unofficial cafeteria of the fast-growing software company, with Bill Gates and Paul Allen known to make frequent visits to the restaurant.

No word on what Gates — who prefers a classic Burgermaster with fries — thinks of his old-time favorite burger joint now using an Apple product.

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  • Nathan Novak

    The Burgermaster in Kirkland (right off 520 at Bellevue Way) has been using Windows-based mobile devices on their on-premises WiFi network to take orders at your for YEARS, originally using HP iPAQ handhelds I believe. Perhaps other locations were still using paper until recently, but definitely not the one Bill typically goes to. :-)

    • Chris

      Yep, they were using iPaqs in the past: http://www.rsd.geac.com/object/pr102201.html

      • johnhcook

        Interesting. I may need to do a GeekWire “investigation” to see if they’ve made the switch to iPod Touches. :) The Aurora restaurant that I frequent had used paper-based systems — and the intercom — up until yesterday.

        On your next trip there, let me know what you see.

        • Arlington Albertson

          Yeah, I can definitely confirm they’ve been using winmo devices for many years at the Kirkland branch. We were just there a week or so ago and come to think of it, it did seem like something was different. I’ll have to check again… awww shucks.

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