'Waiter, I'll have the shrimp with a portable phone' Tablemate brings calls to the diners

November 27, 1991|By Leslie Cauley

Patrons of the Bombay Grill who get the urge to make a few calls between their grilled prawns and minced lamb need look no further than their waiter, who will deliver a portable telephone to the table for the asking.

The restaurant's portable phone system, new to the Baltimore market, permits diners to make local and long-distance calls without having to leave the table.

The phone, known as the Tablemate, automatically tallies the cost of each call and produces a receipt on the spot.

The phone is being marketed by Baltimore-based Casmitel Telecommunications, which is trying to sell area restaurants, hair salons and private clubs on the idea of table-side telephoning.

"It's just a very convenient way to do business," said Susan Pollack, a Casmitel co-owner.

It's also easy.

That's because Tablemate calling costs are added to the regular bill -- be it a meal check or hair salon fee -- and can be paid by cash or credit card.

For patrons, Tablemate costs are competitive with regular pay phones, Ms. Pollack noted.

Though establishments can set their own fees, the typical cost of a local Tablemate call is about 30 cents, Ms. Pollack said. Long-distance fees typically run 75 cents to 80 cents a minute.

The phone system, part of the "Mate" line of telecommunications products sold by Megatrends Telecommunications of Delaware, has been available in other markets for a few years.

Casmitel has been selling the system in Baltimore for about two months, Ms. Pollack said.

The unit sells for $1,295. Ms. Pollack said businesses may buy or lease the phone system.

In Maryland, the Tablemate system is being used by Lords & Ladies, a hair salon in Annapolis, and the Bombay Grill.

Tony Chemmanoor, owner of the Bombay Grill, said that patrons have taken a liking to the Tablemate since it was installed a month ago. Because the restaurant doesn't have a regular pay phone, patrons had to use the bar phone whenever they wanted to make private calls, he said.

"We have a lot of business people coming in who don't want to have to get up and use the telephone. So now we bring it to the table for them," he said.

"People seem to like that."

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