It is a real credit to Apple that they can actually create need for a product that you are not necessarily asking for.
Most people who have never picked up an iPad automatically say it isn’t something they would use – it is really in between a laptop and a smart phone. What is the point? But put one in their hands and they fall in love, immediately connecting to the user experience.
When Richard Lewis approached The Melia Group to create a customer wine buying experience on the iPad for his iconic steakhouse, Bone’s (and another of his well-known restaurants, Blue Ridge Grill), we didn’t really know how customers would react. Would they be disinterested or would they be too interested and extend the table stay too long? Would the Bone’s older demographic enjoy it or not find it easy to use? Would the iPads walk out the door?
We considered all of these elements as we designed the experience.
Bone’s has a wine cellar of over 10,000 bottles; so, it was critical to give users a number of ways to search the wines. Bone’s has a clientele of very informed wine buyers; consequently, we expected that reviews, labels, stories and limited selections would enhance and validate their experience. The iPad design had to fit with the Bone’s brand, work well in low light, yet not be too bright to distract other diners. We also didn’t want to take the waiter or the wine buyers out of their direct interaction with the customer. So, we did not consider automatic order placement (which could be done over a wireless network for other applications).
It was important that the restaurant’s wine buyers could add new vintages, track the number of bottles left with notification to the customer (i.e., if there were three or less bottles available) and make other updates daily. To accommodate these needs, we designed the iPads to auto-update over a wireless network within each restaurant from a wine inventory database called Cellar Control, which just happened to be developed by Richard and his group. The interface was designed and tested. Adjustments for type size, color and sub navigation were added and the iPads were ready for launch.
Results over the first month were truly surprising. Customers young and old were lauding kudos, pointing to the “cool” factor and great information that broadened their horizons. They only needed the shortest of tutorials and their use of the iPad only extended order time by less than a minute on average.
In fact, a writer for the New York Times was so taken by this innovative iPad experience, that he penned a feature article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/15/dining/15ipad.html.
The best news of all is that customer spend was up an average of 10% more on wine purchases when using the iPad.
We’ll drink to that!