Patrons at Palisade Restaurant over the years have grown accustomed to browsing an extensive wine list, flipping through dozens of printed pages in a quest to find their favorite Syrah, Merlot or Zinfandel. But last week, the Seattle restaurant started phasing out its 35-page wine list.

Don’t worry, you can still get a nice Tempranillo. But now there’s just a high-tech twist.

Customers of the waterfront restaurant now can browse more than 600 wines on an iPad, an experience that Palisade calls the “city’s first-ever paperless wine menu.”

Palisade is using a technology called SmartCellar by Incentient to power the interactive wine list, which allows customers to search by country, variety and even organic wines grown with sustainable farming procedures. Restaurants Unlimited’s Pat Irwin tells GeekWire that they have 15 iPads in the hands of servers, with plans to expand to about 25 to 30 once the initial tests are completed.

“The wine list at Palisade is quite extensive and sometimes intimidating for your average diner,” said Irwin. “This technology makes it easy for guests to scroll through labels or choose wines by categories that are most important to them.”

The restaurant is hopeful that the iPad investment eventually will reduce printing costs of the wine menus. It also could save servers time who field requests for wines that might be out of stock from the printed list, as well as more easily alter prices for wines.

Under the old method, Palisade general manager Doug Zellers said they were constantly updating the wine list, and shelling out a lot on printing each week.  Now, certified sommelier Yashar Shayan can simply update the list in real-time, using a dedicated WiFi network.

Eventually, the restaurant says that it wants to include pairing selections for selected wines with dishes created by Chef Dan Gilmore.

iPads have been making their way into restaurants with more regularity, and just last week we reported that Urbanspoon’s Rezbook application for the iPad has been used in more than 1,000 restaurants to modernize the pencil-and-paper reservation book.

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  • Eric LeVine

    With the advent of the iPad, there are 5 or 6 similar companies that have popped up. (DISCLAIMER: I have a partnership with one and potentially a second in the works.)

    In the short term, the key question is whether the cost to maintain yet another list is offset by additional beverage sales. Beverage is clearly the highest margin area for a fine dining establishment, so it is a good lever to play with. There is a secondary question of whether the user experience of the table is same, better or worse than the printed list. (My one use of an Incentient system at a restaurant in Newport, RI was, well, pretty lame actually with no real advantage over a printed list, excessive drilldowns to nothing etc.) Regardless, Incentient does appear to be the leader in the space.

    Longer term, the real challenge that I have seen restaurants struggle with is a complete lack of integration between their point of sale system, their printed wine list, the wine list on their website, the winelist they might have on a tablet, and the spreadsheets that a typical somm uses to maintain inventory. If a restaurant is part of a chain or a hotel group they are often expected to (re)inventory every 2-4 weeks, and a staggering amount of manpower is spent just recounting the same bottles of wine.

    The first solution that can tie all of this together will do really well.

  • Jammie

    This is a great way for a restaurant to use an iPad to streamline what used to be complicated!  Check out my other ideas for how a restaurant can use an iPad: 10 Apps For Your Restaurant’s New iPad.

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