At certain city restaurants, even the regulars have been staring at the menus for a lot longer than usual these past couple of months. The draw? Interactive menus loaded up on an iPad. Koh at The InterContinental Marine Drive started the trend in November last year when they started handing out iPads to customers, asking them to click on the menu application that showed the full list of dishes on offer, complete with prices and images as well as information on the chef and a feedback form. Last month, Royal China in Bandra and Fort followed suit with the launch of their interactive menu, which includes an additional feature of an order basket that allows you to calculate your bill while placing the order. The Royal China iPad app (owner Neville Vazifdar says it has helped boost sales) has been developed by Edgardo Cruzet, founder of 360 CMS, a multimedia solutions provider. Cruzet is reportedly also working on iPad menus for Bandra lounge Escobar and Two One Two Bar & Grill, the Italian restaurant in Worli. We spoke to him about the advantages of having an iPad menu. Edited excerpts:
Was the iPad menu for Royal China your idea?
Neville Vazifdar, the restaurant proprietor’s came up with the idea. He noticed that many restaurants in Australia had replaced print menus with iPads and proposed we try doing the same at Royal China. I was very enthused as the possibilities are limitless.
What is the advantage of an iPad menu?
Most importantly, it eliminates the use of paper and printing costs, which is a huge expenditure for the restaurant. Updating or revamping the entire menu becomes a lot easier and is a pretty DIY process. Interactivity is the obvious advantage. Having a picture to accompany each dish on the menu is a very compelling way of choosing your food. At Royal China, they’ve shot 80 per cent of the menu. With Internet access, I can even introduce a “Share with a friend” option, quite like Tweeting while you’re at the restaurant.
What features have you introduced?
We worked on it in three phases. First, we put up the food and beverage menu with pictures. We’ve just introduced the order basket, which allows you to add items to your basket and calculate your total bill at the same time as placing the order. It’s very easy to use, involves simple addition and subtraction and gives you the scope to change your mind before the waitstaff carries the order to the kitchen. We’re currently working on the third phase, e-fortune cookies. The customer will be handed the iPad at the end of the meal and will have to tap the image of a fortune cookie three times before it reveals a fortune. We’re in the process of collecting a database of fortunes with at least one to two lakh fortunes as we don’t want them to be repeated.
What other plans do you have with the menu?
Because it’s an interactive device, one needs to constantly build on it. We can introduce recipes or provide trivia on some of the ingredients used in the food. Sharing industry news is an option. With video, you can even upload short food demos. Neville had this idea that we upload information on traditional Chinese ingredients and their origins; for instance, the history of dim sums. I had this idea of introducing small audio icons next to dishes to serve as a tutorial on pronunciation. The final aim is to integrate the order basket with the kitchen (the customer can place the order directly with the kitchen) so that the ordering process becomes seamless.