iPads in Restaurants

In a recent interview, top San Francisco chef Michael Mina was asked if he was a techie?

MM: I don’t believe in using the iPad for a winelist. I hate that. When I go to a restaurant, I want the wine list. I believe in using technology to make experiences better for your guests. … But I don’t believe in replacing the traditions in the restaurant with technology.

I’ve been using computers for a long time so I might be biased, but I do believe that technology could augment a diner’s experience. First and foremost, many wine lists are inscrutable even to those of us who are regular imbibers, so it would be nice to have some guidance on which wines will pair with the food on offer. For example, not everyone knows the difference between a Domaine Arlaud ‘Les Ruchots’ 1er Cru 2010 and a Massolino ‘Parafada’ Barolo 2004 (both similarly priced at Michael Mina in San Francisco) but you would not want to mix them up in a food situation. Now this is traditionally where a sommelier would step into the picture, but if you are still negotiating with the rest of your dining partners over dishes and wine, where everything is up in the air, this could take some effort and I for one would feel guilty taking up so much of someone’s time. Restaurant technology, if done well, offers the diner a greater opportunity and insight into a wine program than just a name and a price and at a pacing that suits them, and could be a tremendous trade up on tradition.

On a semi-related matter, Andrew Knowlton, the restaurant editor at Bon Appétit, is conflicted over the use of iPad menus. You see, his problem is that he steals menus, and obviously a $400 piece of consumer electronics is a very different moral proposition than stuffing a sheet of paper into your pocket. As we encourage restaurants to use Taste ZiNG! I always expected theft to be a concern, I just never expected it to come from food critics!

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