From Tablet To Table: Technology Creates A Feast For Our Eyes!

Wine & Dine is the iPad app which enables restaurants to further enhance the dining experience by replacing their paper menus with sophisticated iPad ones.

Creating a mouth-watering menu has always been a challenge for chefs and restaurant managers.
You can 'say it' with words and even perhaps a few photos created in studio conditions and bearing little resemblance to the dish that arrives at the table. Now though it's technology and contemporary communication techniques to the rescue.

From the evidence in the US and Asia, where tablet menus are now being used, it is very clear that all parties are benefitting, according to Nigel Hazell, chairman of Dun and Huang, the company that's launched its Wine & Dine: iMenu solution in the UK.

According to Hazell, restaurants that replace traditional paper menus with a digital experience could see average spends per head increase by 10%. It's not just because diners enjoy a 'one off' digital experience but there's an increased level of repeat business.

"Customers enjoy the experience so much they return to restaurants that use tablets - often with their friends," he says.

A boon for restaurants in cosmopolitan cities and towns is that the highly functional iPad menus include the scope to provide the restaurant's offering in up to 15 different languages. The menus are instantly updateable, which means daily specials can be included and dishes that run out during the evening, can be removed.

There's no need for re-prints and prices can be revised to reflect demand levels and cost changes. Restaurants can also store several menus (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner), displaying only the latest one as needed.

Dishes are presented via high-resolution images and the iMenu can also include key ingredients or those that might provoke allergies, such as nuts. There's also the scope for nutritional profile and preparation time to be included.

"There's a visual and informative presentation at the diner's fingertips," says Hazell. "It's a stimulating experience, even before the food has arrived at the table. For diners with impaired vision there's an audio menu feature, allowing them to listen to the menu and navigate through by finger swipes.
Videos can be added; the chef or proprietor can provide a welcome for guests and images of the kitchen operation can be featured.

"The iMenu even allows chefs to do a daily video explaining which dishes he recommends and why," says Hazell.

Other features included on Wine & Dine: the iMenu include a 'Call the Waiter' button, which sends a message to the waiter station, and a 'Request the Bill' button. Both are designed to remove the frustration and embarrassment of trying to get the attention of a waiter.

Hazell points to a number of economies that can be achieved using iMenu, such as diners submitting orders direct to the kitchen and the scope for integration within the restaurant's POS system.

"This includes not just transmission of orders, but also of detailed information such as, how the diner would like a steak cooked," he adds. "Diners can even indicate, at the start of the dinner, what interval they would like between courses."

And if diners want to leave a comment about their food and customer experience they can do it using the iMenu. There are also valuable analytics for the restaurant on which dishes are viewed most by diners.

"Importantly," adds Hazell, "there's the freedom for each restaurant to brand the iMenu in its own house style - incorporating a logo and wallpaper and to set up its menu according to its own structure.
"This is particularly relevant for wine menus, which can vary from just a handful to up to several hundred wines. It allows the restaurant to set its own hierarchy for the purpose."

All the content of the iMenus are fed by a private section of a secure website. This allows proprietors to manage their menus without necessarily being in the restaurant.

So is the paper menu, often costly to design and print, and always at the mercy of dish and price changes a thing of the past?
Probably not, admits Hazell.
"There will always be restaurants which prefer the chalk board or paper menu. There are those that simply want the diner to choose, eat and move on, so that the table can be re-used quickly.
"The iMenu has a place in restaurants that want to create a whole dining experience, something unique, where discerning people go to eat individually created dishes and the restaurant wants the diner to know just how much care, attention and passion has gone into each one."
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