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Electronic menus

Question:

Our beverage list is presented on iPads. Guests usually love it but some are annoyed and ask for paper copies. Over time they seem to be loading slower between sections. How do we keep them fast?

– Bartender, Detroit, MI

Answer:

A number of vendors offer menus on iPads. Guests are often attracted to the novelty at first and then are hooked by the ease of scrolling between sections, especially on large wine lists. The technology brings other advantages as well. 86’d items can be electronically deleted so servers don’t have to be the bearers of bad news. Some vendors allow for touch screen ordering, integrating the electronic menu with a POS system. Guests can click on menu items for allergen information, nutrition facts, tasting notes, sourcing details, or other information that would crowd a paper menu. And the backlit screen is a relief for guests who struggle to read in low lighting. In addition to menus, games, registration for promotions and offers, and company information can be added to keep guests busy while they wait for their order.

In case of unforeseen glitches, it is always a good idea to have paper menus available. Some guests report having difficulty reading on a screen and we are in the hospitality business after all.

In terms of the speed, your iPads should not become sluggish due to use. Jennifer Martucci, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Co-Founder of Incentient, creators of SmartTouch and SmartCellar, suspects that the sluggishness is an easily remedied network issue. Martucci says, “The problem with this industry is it’s very transient. New employees aren’t familiar with the system. People complain but don’t always call support if they’re having a problem.”

If you go with an electronic menu, be sure to choose a vendor with 24-hour support. Train all employees in the use and maintenance of the hardware and software. Since some glitches are easily remedied with a call to the vendor, make sure employees know to communicate problems.

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