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Gadgets -iPads Lend Value to Restaurant Industry

January 03, 2011

iPads Lend Value to Restaurant Industry

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

The iPad has expanded the world of mobile computing even further than users dreamed when they first laid hands on the smartphone. Now, according to this recent Associated Press (News - Alert) report, even those who aren’t regular iPad users still may benefit from the technology when they patronize the Chicago Cut steakhouse. 

An upscale eatery, the steakhouse invested in 40 iPads at roughly $700 each to use for its wine selection. Chicago Cut is not alone. Since the debut of the Apple tablet, upscale restaurants, hamburger eateries and quick-service chains have implemented the device to use as a full menu.

For its part, Chicago Cut partnered with a technology firm to create a custom app that resembles a virtual wine cellar. The app lists the restaurants more than 750 wines and includes photos of the bottles on wooden shelves and allows users to search based on variety, price or region of origin. Information can also be accessed about the taste of a wine, its composition and a Google map of the vineyard from which it came. 

Matt Moore, Chicago Cut’s managing partner, shared with the AP that the bottle will eventually spin around and share the back label. In the future, programmers could also add video or allow customers to e-mail themselves in the name of a new favorite wine. 

Moore’s partner, David Flom, acknowledged that the iPads were a significant investment, but one that is already showing returns. According to Flom, there has already been an increase of wine per customer by 20 percent. He doesn’t give the iPads credit for 100 percent of that growth, but at least a significant portion. 

The technology inherent in the iPad is extending value throughout the restaurant industry. Six of Au Bon Pain’s 220 locations already use the iPad and plan to continue to expand. Ed Frechette, the company’s vice president of marketing, said that diners usually fill out pieces of paper with their orders at the cafes. The iPads have simplified this process. 

4Food in New York has implemented iPads at eight kiosks and plans to add as many as 30 devices. Expansion will include integrating Android and BlackBerry platforms in addition to the Apple. The platforms are used to enable customers to order and enter credit card information to complete payment for their purchase. 

orderTALK helps with online ordering for restaurants and according to its chief Patrick Eldon, the real value of using iPads is to develop customer relationships. The tablets make it possible to complete digital surveys, collect customer e-mails and offer frequent diner programs.

"It's about getting to know your customer in a way that you can't get to know them from the waiter or waitress," Eldon told the Associated Press. "You now have incredibly valuable data about customers, how often they eat, what a particular customer likes to order."Tablets are now making their way to the travel circuit as well. More than 200 iPads have been loaded with menus at gates in New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The technology allows travelers to order salads and sandwiches while they wait for flights. A waiter brings the food and diners can use the iPad to pay or give cash to the server.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

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