Ayrshire golf resort adopts iPad for wine list

AT £1,000, it is probably the world's most expensive menu. The Ayrshire golf resort of Turnberry has become the first establishment in Scotland to substitute its paper wine list for an iPad.

Turnberry is trialling the product for the wine list in its fine dining restaurant and plans to extend the concept to its other restaurants and bars by the end of the year.

In addition to the basic product listings, guests can peruse descriptions and tasting notes of the wines on offer - and even search for their favourite drink by grape, year or country of origin.

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The hotel has paid 10,000 for ten iPads with Apple-adapted software preventing customers from accessing the internet and, although guests cannot yet order from the devices, that is likely to be introduced. IPads may also be incorporated into table-tops in a family-friendly restaurant being planned at Turnberry.

Ralph Porciani, director of operations at Turnberry, said: "We've seen this in the States for a while and it improves and enriches the experience of choosing from a menu.

"The ability to combine images, with more colourful background information on the product - be it the wine maker or the grapes - is incredibly satisfying for guests and gives them a far more informed choice."

Porciani said staff had spotted the potential of an iPad menu not long after the first Apple tablet was released. It was the idea that customers could choose their wine without having to feel ignorant in front of a sommelier that appealed to the hotel.

"No-one means to do it, but ordering wine from a sommelier can often be quite an intimidating experience," said Porciani. "We had already been considering other methods of tackling that problem when the concept of putting the wine list on to an iPad came along. It seemed ideal.

"Around 60 per cent of our guests wander around with an iPad already tucked under their arm. So it is a technology which is very useable and very familiar to many people."

In other countries where the iPad has been used instead of a menu, restaurants have claimed a rise in turnover from diners finding their ordering inhibitions are lifted when ordering direct, rather than via waiters.

The trend began in the US shortly after the launch of the tablet devices last year. The technology used in some American restaurants allows staff to communicate with customers through email-style messages, suggesting, for example, that they may be ready to buy another drink - and also pay for their meals through the device using an in-built swipe card slot.

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But Porciani said he does not want technology to replace his staff: "This is to enhance service, not to replace it. I still want my waiting staff to establish a relationship with the customer."

Earlier this year, Gordon Ramsay's Maze restaurant in London became the first in the UK to have an iPad menu.

"I think it is a very innovative idea and has a lot of potential," said Iain Herbert, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Forum. "A lot of restaurants are now very interested in what we call Scotland's larder - and an iPad menu could give the opportunity to give further details on where food comes from and how it is produced.

"While the iPads are expensive, if this proves that it makes a difference in terms of selling in bars and restaurants, I could see quite a lot of places taking it on."

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