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An app to match your appetite in Cambodia

A cafe in Cambodia recently introduced electronic menus, side stepping language barriers between tourists and restaurant staff.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

One of Asia’s poorest nations has one of the latest high-tech spins: A cafe here recently introduced electronic menus.

The e-menus at Coffee Room, a small shop that opened in January in Phnom Penh, allows customers to place their orders, call a server to their table, and ask for the bill by simply touching the tablet computers that are available at every table. Diners can also type in how they want their drinks prepared (such as “no ice” or “no sugar”), read ingredients, and use the “menus” to access Facebook, Skype, or Twitter.

Irina Afonina, a businesswoman from Kazakhstan who has lived in Cambodia for five years, says she developed the electronic menu to simplify the restaurant-going experience for expatriates who don’t speak the local language.

“In countries like Cambodia and Kazakhstan, it’s hard for customers to order,” she says. “Sometimes you ask what is inside the dish and they can’t explain – because they don’t understand your English pronunciation or they don’t know what’s inside.”

Ms. Afonina, who is also the chief executive officer of Cambodia-based IT company Cresittel, says her e-menus will soon allow people to select their native language – and to chat with customers seated at different tables of the restaurant.“We’re not providing only coffee and snacks; it’s also entertainment,” she says.

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