Thursday, February 24, 2011 – By Chelsea Long –
Flagstaff House may have finally found something that distracts guests from the view of Boulder through their windows — the shiny new iPad sitting at the table.
The restaurant, on its 40th birthday, chose to replace the books that housed the list of their 3,000 wines with 13 iPads. Each iPad is loaded with Tiare Technology’s Wireless WineList system.
“As soon as I saw the iPad come out, I started thinking about how great it would be to have it as a wine list,” says Scott Monette, who owns the restaurant with his family.
Tiare Technology approached him with the idea, which he’d already been considering, and the Monettes worked alongside the company to customize the experience for visitors at the restaurant. The result was something unique.
“There have been other systems that I’ve seen before, but they were all so cumbersome and challenging to work that I would never have brought them in,” Monette says. “But this is so clean, and so intuitive, and so fun.”
So intuitive, in fact, that customers have had no trouble working the device, even without explanation.
“We haven’t even been describing it, we’ve just been handing people the list,” he says. “It’s that user-friendly, that you don’t need a tutorial.”
That, says Julie Werbitt, CEO of Tiare Technology, was the goal in creating the product.
“The litmus test for us is to put it in front of someone with limited experience with computers, and they can be able to open it up and be able to use it right away,” she says.
The system allows customers to search by price, region and variety among the several thousand wines offered by Flagstaff House, a function that was impossible with a paper list. “It’s so hard to search in a paper list like that. How could you see all the cabernets in the world at once?” Monette asks. “Or all the Merlots?” If a customer was looking for a specific Sonoma Merlot, for example, the search function could easily find it. The customer could start by looking at Merlots, and then narrow the search to Merlots from California, then Napa, then Sonoma County.
One of the other functions that helps customers find the best wine for their evening is the Consideration List, which allows them to select multiple wines, which the wine steward can then explain in detail. They can also e-mail their selection, if they liked it, to themselves at the end of the evening.
“[The Consideration List] adds to the experience,” Monette says. “People can read a little about the wine first, and that provides a starting point for the conversation with the wine steward.”
The new iPad lists aren’t an attempt to replace the knowledgeable wine stewards at Flagstaff, but to continue to add to the experience that users get.
“A lot of times a wine list, especially one of that size, is daunting,” Werbitt says. “So [the system] allows the customer to have a starting point, and then to engage the server or the sommelier. We don’t look to replace the service, we look to enhance it.”
Monette believes the information available on the iPads allows users to feel less intimidated by the depth of their list.
“Wine should be fun. We hate to think it’s intimidating at all,” Monette says. “[The system] allows you to pull up more information on the wine. It gives you a nice picture of the label, as well as a description of the wine. You feel more confident, because you have a little more information about it.”
Customers seem to agree. “Some people just want to keep it all night,” Monette says. “They’ll show it to everyone at the table. People love it.”
It’s also a benefit to Flagstaff House because it cuts the cost, economically and environmentally, of printing. The restaurant used to have to update its wine list when it added or removed a wine, which meant printing 13 new copies of a section. The cost of the printing alone significantly offsets the cost of the iPads, and the restaurant is also using the technology for their new inventory system, which they’d been looking to upgrade.
“In my mind, you almost have to do it, if you have something this powerful and this fun to use,” Monette says.
And the timing, which coincidentally occurred just as the restaurant was celebrating its 40th anniversary, couldn’t have been better.
“It was great timing. It’s a great time to say, we’re still finding new things,” he says. “I think it’s important that we’re on top of the new of everything. New food, new wines, new technology. My expectation of a highend restaurant is to have all those things and to have that excitement.”