Wine Lists Go Digital

 
“It is an efficient experience, allowing the staff to concentrate on great food and wine,” says Jeff Krevitt.
“It is an efficient experience, allowing the staff to concentrate on great food and wine,” says Jeff Krevitt. © Tiare Technology

They can be in app or website form. In either case, users say they appeal to the techno-savvy generation.

Restaurants across the nation have started making the switch from paper wine lists to digital tablets or iPads. Despite upfront costs, the pioneers have seen beverage sales increased up to 20 percent. The market has since become saturated with companies providing affordable solutions. But the abundant options have led to confusion over which software to choose for your restaurant.

There are three basic models: the replication, or PDF, version, the app and the website.

The replication is as basic as PDFs of the wine list. To Michael Scherzberg, sommelier of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in New York City, that simply wasn’t enough. “We wanted it to be something where guests can narrow their search, as opposed to flipping through the list,” Scherzberg explains.

Scherzberg has been working on the Incentient SmartCellar website-based program since November and finally launched the digital wine list to the public in April. His plate has been full writing 20 pieces of information about each of its 600 wine selections. That includes the history of wineries and pictures of wine labels. Although he still has a ways to go, the wine list may be found here.

“If you want to do it well, you have to plan on dedicating a lot of time to getting started,” Scherzberg cautions.

However, some companies are boasting faster transition periods. Forest Park, Illinois-based Beverage Works promises to have the new system up and running within 48 hours.

The app hit the scene last November, and its latest update was set to be released Aug. 1. According to owner Vito Claps, the company has 2,000 wines in its database. Monthly fees are $79 with a free 30-day trial. The format of the wine list is typical across the board, and the pages look standard, Claps says.

This standard formatting was one reason why Chicago Cut Steakhouse owner David Flom decided to partner with Shared Marketing to develop Chicago’s first digital wine list program. The “off-the-wall” software came at a pretty penny, though; the 40 iPads alone cost $28,000. According to Flom, the investment has paid off through an increased ratio of food to beverage sales of 20 percent in comparison with his previous restaurant operations.

Information currently available includes videos from winemakers, Google maps and wine pairing recommendations. This year’s additions include 3-D bottle images, videos of food preparation and syncing with Open Table, the point-of-sale and inventory control system.

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