Gizmodo of the Day

iPad Doubles as Wine Menu

The iPad wine list at Bone’s in Atlanta includes detailed ratings. NY Times Images.

Kevin Sack, NY Times

At Bone’s, Atlanta’s most venerable steakhouse, a clubby place of oak paneling and white tablecloths, the gold-jacketed waiters now greet diners by handing them an iPad. It is loaded with the restaurant’s extensive wine list, holding detailed descriptions and ratings of 1,350 labels.

Once patrons make sense of the touch-pad links, which does not take long, they can search for wines by name, region, varietal and price, instantly educating themselves on vintner and vintage.

Since their debut six weeks ago, the gadgets have enthralled the (mostly male) customers at Bone’s. And to the astonishment of the restaurant’s owners, wine purchases shot up overnight — they were nearly 11 percent higher per diner in the first two weeks compared with the previous three weeks, with no obvious alternative explanation.

Other restaurateurs who are experimenting with iPad wine lists, from Sydney to London to Central Park South, report similar results. The devices seem to be spurring deeper interest in wine and empowering bolder, more confident selections, they say, potentially revolutionizing the psychology of dining’s most intimidating passage.

“I felt like they had given me the answer sheet to the test,” said Bradley D. Kendall, a Bone’s regular who recently used the iPad to select a 2005 Corté Riva cabernet franc for $102, about 25 percent beyond his usual range.

Mr. Kendall, 43, described himself as a bit of a wine poseur. He has vacationed in Italy and Napa Valley and has a cellar at home, but he cannot remember a label from meal to meal. He knows just enough, or perhaps just little enough, to become suspicious whenever a waiter recommends a vineyard he does not know.

But Mr. Kendall said the ratings he found on the iPad — by the wine writer Robert M. Parker Jr. — carried credibility. He decided that the price of the cabernet franc was justified by Mr. Parker’s award of 92 points out of 100. “I found a bottle of wine that I never would have tried, and it was wonderful,” he said.

Some who have used the iPads predict the gradual extinction of the leather-bound wine list, saving reams of paper each week and threatening sommeliers with superfluity.

Interactive wine lists began appearing at a smattering of restaurants as early as 2001, and leading wine analysts have for several years offered recommendations via smartphone applications. But Apple’s introduction in April of the iPad, which approximates a conventional wine list in size, shape and weight, has substantially accelerated the trend.

Incentient, a Long Island company that makes wine-list software for the iPad, has received orders from 40 restaurants, up from 5 a few months ago, said Jennifer Martucci, the vice president for product development, sales and marketing. Celebrity restaurateurs like Gordon Ramsay and Todd English are among the pioneers. Some restaurants, including Bone’s and Naples Tomato in Naples, Fla., have developed their own software.

“With the information on the device, they seem more apt to experiment by buying a different varietal or going outside their price range,” Mr. Reno said. “It stuns me, but they seem to trust the device more than they trust me, and these are people I’ve waited on for 10 years.”

Waiters at Bone’s have seen beer and cocktail drinkers switch to expensive bottles of wine after spending time with an iPad. The same has been true at South Gate, a restaurant at the Jumeirah Essex House in New York that introduced an iPad wine list in early July.

The management at Bone’s bought 30 iPads for $499 each, and another 20 for a sibling restaurant, then converted its own database of label descriptions and ratings into an application, said Richard T. Lewis, who opened the restaurant with Ms. DeRose 31 years ago. Despite the free marketing, Apple declined to provide a volume discount.

Mr. Lewis said he had been pleasantly surprised that none of the iPads had been stolen or damaged by a toppled glass of water. The biggest challenge has been prying them away from customers.

Kevin Sack, NY Times

iPad as a wine menu? bet ya didn’t see that one coming.

will more restaurants start using the iPad as a  menu for customers?

likely, in the long run, it’s cheaper then updating paper menus

and 50 million times cooler (more customers anyone?)