More restaurants are handing wait staff and customers iPads

RALEIGH, N.C. — In an increasingly digital world, your next glass of wine could come at the tap of an iPad.

Restaurants are increasingly turning to high-tech gadgets to offer everything from food and wine pairings to wireless ordering systems. They’re hoping the investment will pay off as the technology attracts young customers and ups the ante for customer experience.

CholaNad, a Chapel Hill, N.C., restaurant that specializes in South Indian fare, arms its wait staff with iPods and iPads to take food orders.

Guests who need help deciding what to eat can browse photos of the dishes on the device to supplement the waiters’ descriptions. When they’re ready to order, the iPod’s point-of-sale system application wirelessly sends the customer’ order to the kitchen — free of illegible handwriting.

Subash Panneerseluam, CholaNad’s chef, said the system not only reduces the chances of wrong orders but also makes the restaurant greener through reduced paper and food waste. He paid the retail price for his two iPads and 10 iPod Touches, plus $2,000 for the software license. He expects to recover the cost through reduced expenses on pens and paper.

“The world is turning toward technology, and we should update ourselves with that technology,” he said. “We wanted to revolutionize the restaurant business with this.”

Sarah Thomson, a server at CholaNad, said she had never worked with the iPod system at other jobs, though the technology is growing on her.

“It’s nice. You don’t get any hand cramps; you don’t have to worry about writing super fast and not being able to read it,” she said. “It’s just very simple.”

Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association, said the pressure to improve profit margins in an industry sensitive to the economy could be fueling the transition to digital. Some convenience stores, including the Sheetz chain of gas stations, have already crossed over to the technology through systems like ordering kiosks.

“You’ll definitely see more technology usage in restaurants in the years ahead,” Riehle said. “Quick service has been historically the technology leader, but table service is now following closely behind.”

Hospitality Social creates applications for restaurants looking to go high-tech with their presentation. The company has created interactive wine and cocktail lists and pairings and is expanding its menu application. About 25 restaurants and chains use the technology, most notably Shula’s Steak House.

Jack Serfass, Hospitality Social’s CEO, said interactive features ultimately enhance the guest’s experience, which can lead to repeat sales for a restaurant.

“If you have a choice of a paper menu in a dark restaurant that’s hard to read and an interactive menu, your experience is going to be much better with an interactive menu,” Serfass said.

Hospitality Social’s applications aren’t limited to restaurants looking to upgrade. Customers can also download them from an app store.

“You can actually see what you’re going to see at a restaurant before you even go,” Serfass said.

As for what customers actually think of the technology — that depends on whom you ask.

One Restaurant in Durham, N.C., houses its wine lists on six iPads. Reactions range from curious to skeptical, said Daniel Sartain, the general manager.

“It’s a bit of a polarizing sort of effect,” he said. “You get people that are just like, ‘Wow, what a strange thing,’ or, ‘Can I check my email?’ and everything in between.”


(c)2012 The News &Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Visit The News &Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services

More in Herald Business Journal

Exec director of Future of Flight in Mukilteo stepping down

A former board president will temporarily lead Snohomish County’s most popular tourism attraction.

Seafood producer Keyport moves corporate HQ to Edmonds

The family business sees the city as business friendly — and able to accommodate expansion.

Tax bill will help fund 5,000 layoffs, Kimberly-Clark says

Executives declined to say which factories the company would be closing.

Ex-Boeing executive Ray Conner joins Alaska Air board

Alaska Air Group said his appointment affirms the company’s commitment to its Northwest roots.

AI can read! Tech firms race to smarten up thinking machines

“A long way from computers being able to read … general text in the same way that humans can.”

Peoples, HomeStreet banks bump lowest salaries after tax cut

The banks with Snohomish County branches will raise minimum salaries for employees to $15 an hour.

Amazon opens store with no cashiers, lines or registers

The Seattle store allows shoppers to use a smartphone app to pay for items they want.

The expansion at Angel of the Winds Casino is expected to add room for up to 300 more slot machines and 16 new table games. (Courtesy Angel of the Winds)
Groundbreaking held for multimillion-dollar casino expansion

Angel of the Winds will gain up to 300 more slot machines, a 200-seat buffet and more.

Trump hits solar panels, washing machines with tariffs

The administration cast the decisions as part of his pledge to put American companies and jobs first.

Most Read