With the industry relying more and more on technology and seeing some restaurants go to having their wine list is on an iPad. What are your thoughts on this new concept? Is the industry going down this route and are guests preferring this over the old wine list.
I've never met a guest who preferred the iPad list and I've always rolled my eyes when I've been handed one. I would never use one in my restaurant and I'm not sure why others do.
I have worked with both paper and digital in restaurants that have exceptionally large cellars. At first, the digital list is a headache.
Binwise has its perks:
1. Being able to update lists daily
2. The search function (although this can backfire on you when the guest tried to game the system typing in "Pinot Noir between $0-$70")
3. The ability to "bookmark" and save selections for easy comparisons or when setting up a series of bottles for the table. (I found this to be the most useful feature of digital over analog)
However, the program is not intuitive enough for you to just start searching. So each time you greet a table you must offer a quick tutorial...which is exactly what people want the moment they sit down to an enjoy dinner. As if somms don't already have an uphill battle when it comes to perceived pretension.
As the tech stands, I'd go paper over digital. I'd bet that someone could crack the code of usability and make it worth while.
That said, the best tool a guest has in finding the wine that's best for them is the service professional.
You haven't met that guest yet because we are all in the generations that existed before mass technology. Chances are anyone born before 1990 would prefer the "analog" menu. Haha! how funny does that sound. Wait until the kids born 2010-now are old enough to order a bottle. They will prefer the digital format more.
I'm a fan of the digital list, but the design (both graphic and UX) has to be impeccable. I've worked at a place where I found it extremely helpful, but I've also dined at places where it was a terrible experience.
They both have pros/cons i think. I like the feel of an actual old school menu but when you want to make a chance you have to print a page and replace x amount of menu pages for 1 small change.
I love the easy control of the ipad you can make changes thru your phone and update all the ipads at once with a touch of a button. Ipad has its difficulties as well, it is not as easy to go around and a lot of people seem to struggle with it. As Phil Smith mentioned it is going to change towards to ipad eventually.
I have been to a restaurant that had their list on a tablet and when you clicked each section it gave lots of information about the region and possible pairing recommendations. I thought that was pretty cool, and my wife and I had fun playing with it. I'm not the biggest fan if it is just the list.
Like many have stated I do believe each have their pros and cons.
I have worked in this industry with both iPad/Notebook, and traditional paper lists for quite some time now. What I have learned is, there is nothing better than an old school paper list. My first campaign in the digital wine list world was in 2003 at Aureole Las Vegas, home to the 1st digital/eBook/computer wine list. This system seemed great at first, with a list of more than 3400 labels, I recall. Some guests were thrilled... when it worked. Most asked for a paper copy. Granted, this was several years before Apple even invented the iPad, so things did change eventually, slightly. I then worked with properties that incorporated the then "new" iPad and multiple different software/user interfaces and it was always the same reaction 95% of the time. "Do you have a paper list?"
Digital based lists have their benefits, for us, but absolutely not for the guest. They are a pain in the ass. And the bottom line is, the guest and I, can always flip through a paper list twice as fast as you can tap "next page" over and over. At least until your server times out, then you're totally screwed.
Paper lists aren't going away, and that's a good thing.
I think if a restaurant does want to go down this route, they would have to have more information about the region and descriptors to make the guest experience worth it. They could even add a short video about the region or wine itself to add to the experience.
We transition our lists over to digital 2 years ago (we were using about 26,000 sheets a year between the 2 restaurants), and although it's definitely not perfect, I wouldn't want to go back personally. Being able to add or delete bottles, change vintages, or correct mistakes on the fly is great. As an extremely seasonal place (Aspen) the wine list is constantly changing, and by that I mean by 100s of SKUs.
However, we spent a lot of hours with the development team cutting out all the features of their wine list software with the idea of having a paper list in a digital format. When a guest gets the list, it's already on the table of contents listing our categories. Then after clicking a category, it goes to a simple list of wines that looks like paper but you can scroll it. We also have 4 somms on staff, so there is no reason for the list to have additional info because we want to keep it personalized.
Honestly, I expected to get a ton of flack from guests for a digital list but have had only rare occasions. I think that is also only due to our extremely simplified UI. In that case we always keep a couple paper lists (printed from the software) and that info goes into guest notes.