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Restaurants uploading menus onto iPads for diners

Keith Bragg Chicago navigates wine list an iPad Chicago Cut steakhouse Chicago. | AP photo

Keith Bragg, of Chicago, navigates the wine list on an iPad at Chicago Cut steakhouse in Chicago. | AP photo

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Updated: April 26, 2011 4:46AM

The bar is buzzing on a busy night at Chicago Cut steakhouse as regulars Keith and Peg Bragg sit at a high table scanning the wine list.

In seconds, using an iPad supplied by their server, they have the list of all bottles under $40 at their fingertips.

“You can very quickly look through to see the price per bottle,” said Keith Bragg, a finance executive, as he scrolled through rows of selections. “You can read the wine-tasting note, how long it has been aged.”

The upscale eatery on La Salle on the north bank of the Chicago River has invested in 40 iPads, at about $700 each, for its wine menu.

Since April, when Apple debuted the tablet, the device has been put into use as a full menu at upscale restaurants, hamburger eateries and quick-service chains like Au Bon Pain. And restaurateurs said that’s just the beginning.

Chicago Cut worked with a technology firm to create a custom app that looks like a virtual wine cellar, listing the restaurant’s more than 750 wines, with photos of bottles on wooden shelves. The iPad wine menu there allows for searches based on variety, price or region of origin. Diners also can get information about a wine’s taste and composition, plus a Google map of the vineyard.

“Eventually, the bottle is going to spin around, and you can read the back label,” said Chicago Cut managing partner Matt Moore.

Moore’s partner, David Flom, said the iPads were a big investment but worth it.

“I’ve already seen an increase of wine per customer of 20 percent,” Flom said. “I can’t say that the iPad commanded 100 percent, but I can say it commanded a significant portion of that.”

Technology is becoming increasingly important to restaurants, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at the Chicago restaurant consulting firm Technomic.

“It’s cool and trendy, and kids love it,” he said.

Au Bon Pain uses iPads at six of its 220 locations, with plans to expand.

The iPad menus aren’t without their own problems. Tristano points out that restaurant owners still have to keep the tablets juiced up. At Chicago Cut, Flom said the iPads are loaded with tracking software to prevent theft. And there are customers who won’t want to use iPads.


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