Last week we paid a visit to e11even for lunch, an upscale restaurant located near the Air Canada Center on 15 York Street in downtown Toronto. Our food was incredible, and the service was outstanding. e11even offers classic dishes with modern design and lively atmosphere, but what we were most excited about was its iPad beverage menu. The server brought two iPads for a table of six, and conducted a quick demonstration on how to navigate through the custom application.
Once the menus were in our hands, we huddled around with excitement. The solution was created by Incentient, a company that has provided interactive menus for several restaurants in North America. Unfortunately, our excitement was short lived. The application to our surprise struggled to load, making the demonstration a bit awkward. At a closer look, we realized that while we were using the application, we were merely looking at a beverage list with only a few photos and nothing more. Our food menus were still on paper, despite the fact that the restaurant had over twenty-five iPads on site and could have easily incorporated a menu… considering it there only a handful of items. With all the great features that the iPad offers, we could not help but wonder if this solution actually improved the dining experience.
e11even is not the only place where iPads are being used as the equivalent of a digital photo frame. Many confuse the iPad with a laptop or a PC, and create so called ‘solutions’ that fail to take advantage of all the features that make the device so incredible. While Incentients’ clients report significant profit increases, it is unlikely that these profits are resulting from useful product, but rather the ‘cool factor’ the product carries. This however, does position the product as a fad rather than a useful solution. Other examples did manage to take better advantage of the possibilities the iPad offers. Global Mundo Tapas in the North Sydney Rydges Hotel pushed the envelope a little further.
Here are some features that their menu app offers:
- Diners can see a picture of what the dish looks like along with tasting notes before compiling their order and sending it wirelessly to the kitchen.
- The iPad menu can also suggest the best wines to go with certain dishes and suggest the best food pairings.
- When ordering steak, users can even specify how they’d like the meat cooked and which sauce they’d prefer. It will even ask them if they’d like fries with their order.
- Mundo’s iPad menu app can also help keep track of inventory and disable menu items that are out of stock.
But even such an app can be further enhanced. Borrowing ideas from social media and other successful web services such as Amazon, why not include suggestions such as “those who liked this… also ordered this…” or perhaps offer Facebook’s like button and the option to share your meal? iPad 2 offers two cameras –imagine the social media marketing benefits that these offer for the hospitality industry as well as other industries! The foursquare app as well as Facebook Places is already allowing users to share their location, upload pictures and offer personal comments and reviews. The public loves these features and is quickly embracing them, why not make these features part of the menu? They’re already in use all over the web!