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Trend Alert: Restaurants Using iPads as Virtual Sommeliers

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With the release of the iPad nearly one year ago, the device is changing the way we do business. And while it might seem an unlikely combination, even restaurants have hopped on the bandwagon. Yes, a handful are loading their menus onto iPads for customers to peruse—a costly and wasteful business practice, all in the name of flashiness, as far as I'm concerned. But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about; there are more and more turning iPads into useful (and yes, flashy) tools that actually improve the dining experience.

What I've been seeing are restaurants digitizing their extensive wine offerings specifically for the iPad. Why am I inclined to value this more than a simple digital food menu? Because besides just listing out the wines, these apps, like the one implemented at Hotel Casa del Mar’s Catch Restaurant in Santa Monica, also offer a wealth of information to help you decide on the perfect wine…that is, without the assistance of an on-site sommelier. (Which, let’s be honest, you’re hard-pressed to find at most restaurants.) Catch’s iPad wine list lets diners browse wines by year, price, tasting notes, high-res images, where it was made, and even dish selection. And with more than 200 wines in their cellar, a little help is more than welcome!

But Catch isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, to put this technological twist on the age-old drink. In Atlanta, Bone’s has a similar app for its 1,300 plus wines, with extensive details, year, region and price. Here in NYC, South Gate has a similar app for its 600 plus bottle collection; Naples Tomato, in—you guessed it—Naples, FL has one for its 500 plus bottles; and Chicago Cut Steakhouse recently debuted its digital 800 plus bottle list.

Oh, and did I mention? In case you’re wondering just how useful this is, most of the restaurants with digital wine lists have reported a significant increase in profits from wine sales.

And here you thought mobile technology had nothing to do with drinking wine. Just wait until we start getting our meals from (warning: nerd reference) replicators...

2010-hs-josh-pramis.jpgJoshua Pramis is an online associate editor and resident tech guru at Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuapramis

Photo (top) courtesy of Hotel Casa del Mar

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