Restaurants are always quick to embrace new devices and software systems, either to appeal to the techy interests of their customers, or to help streamline operations. Just think: six years ago, only a select few Manhattan eateries were using iPods as a part of their sound systems. With that in mind, we now present nine ways that restaurants can incorporate iPads into their concepts — some of these ideas are already in play right now, others are suggestions on how the device can be integrated into future dining experiences.
1) Replace the Newspapers and Magazines Offered to Customers with iPads: Yesterday we learned that power lunch spot Michael’s is going to start handing out iPads loaded with the day's newspapers for guests to read while eating breakfast. Even if there's something funny about an old institution like Michael's embracing the device, this might prove to be a smart step for the restaurant as it appeals to the tech interests of its media-type clientele, and there’s also a green element to using iPads in this way. If this trend took off, the inevitable conclusion would be a Pulino’s or Shiller’s style iPad rack by the door.
2) Use iPads for Multimedia Booth Dining: We’ve all been to one of those kitschy 50s-style diners with the quarter-a-song jukeboxes in the booth, for you to select your favorite music while you eat a cheeseburger. What if this concept was updated with iPads loaded with a variety of playlists, movies and TV shows, afixed to the wall? A part from being able to set the tone and mood of your dining experience, you and your friends could catch up on last night’s episode of How I Met Your Mother together, or settle a bet about who played the fiancée in the Hangover by watching the movie right then and
3) Take Orders on an Ipad: When the new social media-heavy restaurant 4Food opens in July, it will feature employees with iPads that can take customer orders the moment they walk in. The restaurant will also feature a regular fast-food style counter, but the addition of the iPad option might help break up the line and make the ordering experience quicker.
4) Let Kid Diners Watch Shrek on iPads: The babysitter’s out of town, and you’ve got to celebrate that special occasion and bring the kiddos along. If you know that the restaurant’s got a few iPads loaded with one of the many, many Shrek films, there’s no need to fear. Prop it up in front of the tykes one of those little stands, press play, and enjoy a nice evening out with your significant other and perfectly behaved children.
5) Serve Petit Fours on an iPad: So far, no restaurant has actually integrated the device into actual food service, but this could be a great place to start. What better way to wow a customer at the end of their meal than by carefully placing a few small cakes or sweets on the surface of an iPad that’s screening a film clip that thematically relates to the restaurant? New York, if we don't do it first, Grant Achatz surely will.
6) Use iPads as Brunch Wait List Clip Boards: With an iPad and USB camera extension, the host could not only input the names of the customers, but also take a photo of them. And, if any customer walks in without knowing the system, a server can just say “Find the guy with the iPad.”
7) Use iPads as Wine Lists: Extensive wine books can be a chore to look through, and especially tedious if most of the list is way, way out of your price range. Uploading the book to an iPad, and allowing customers to flip from page to page with a flick or their finger would put the fun back into ordering wine. Create an app that enables diners to touch each selection to hear pronunciation and pairing tips, and the risk of an awkward sommelier interaction is also totally minimized.
8) Let Customers Play with an iPad if There is a Long Wait: If the wait for a table is a half hour or more, a lot of customers might opt to go somewhere else. Giving customers the option of playing with an iPad while they wait might get them to hang around, happily, until their table is available. If the restaurant has a bar, this might also be a good way to get people to stay and spend money on drinks, as opposed to going to another place for cocktails while they wait.
9) Replace Waiters with iPads: Although a highly trained, experienced service staff is key to any fine dining experience, more casual restaurants could certainly cut down on staffing costs by handing out iPads with menu apps that lets them scan through the selections, find out info about their preparation and ingredients, and also use the 3G capabilities to punch in orders and send them directly to kitchen. Customers would also no longer be subjected to a soliloquy of daily specials, awkward attempts at menu up-sells, or being told to “enjoy” their food, which would definitely appeal to a certain group of diners.