Israeli Cafe Chain's 'Call-button' Scheme Has Public Steamed

'Quiet communications' system, whereby customers alert wait-staff via bracelet activation, draws angry petition and Facebook protest.

Controversy has emerged over an electronic system used by the Cafe Cafe chain whereby seated customers press a button to activate a bracelet worn by their server.

The chain has since responded to the public controversy by halting its use of the system, but the policy is still in effect at other cafes in the country.

Hadar Cohen - December 2011
Hadar Cohen

A campaign against Cafe Cafe's use of the device includes a petition and a Facebook page by people offended by the way the system alerts waitstaff that they are needed by their customers.

The device was developed by a Korean company and is distributed by a company called Vellux, which sells what it calls "quiet communications" systems.

Vellux's CEO, Nimrod Haim, said he has had more inquiries since the controversy surfaced at Cafe Cafe.

"It hasn't created a negative connotation because anyone who knows us and works with us knows what the system is and what it provides. The descriptions of the equipment in the media have gotten out of all proportion," he said.

He explained that businesses can choose to give servers either a blinking light or a buzzer to alert them that they are wanted by a customer.

"We are not electrocuting waiters," Haim said. "That's ridiculous. There is no difference between the beepers that were given out years ago and our equipment."

Haim denied that Cafe Cafe had ceased its business relationship with his company.

A number of other cafe chains, including Greg and Cafe Hillel, also reportedly use Vellux equipment.

In talks to replace device

Haim said Cafe Cafe had been in touch with his company about replacing the current device with a clip that could be placed on an employee's belt and would be given only to the shift manager at Cafe Cafe's branches.

The managers would in turn alert the servers that a customer was calling.

Vellux has been in business since the end of last year and has 14 franchised distributors that have also sold Vellux equipment to the Rami Levi supermarket chain and to hotels such as the David Intercontinental in Tel Aviv and the King David in Jerusalem.

Vellux products have also been popular around Europe, particularly in hospitals, nursing homes and government offices.

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