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Waldorf Orlando serves mobile diners greener fare with iPad menus

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando, a Florida luxury hotel, is leveraging iPad menus at its Bull & Bear restaurant to streamline the dining experience and eliminate paper menus.

Patrons at the fine-dining restaurant next to Walt Disney World Resort can view its offerings of food and drink while adding to a more sustainable environment. The move is an example of how mobile, which is making advance ordering and payment possible, also can support a greener dining campaign.

?Menus have scantly changed in hundreds of years,? said Jack Serfass, 
CEO and co-founder of Naples, FL-based Uptown Network. ?Paper menus are environmentally wasteful and one of the weakest parts of today's dining experience. Digital menus bring a restaurant to life by offering beautiful images of the food and helping to pair beverages.  

?Also, by publishing the menu on the Apple App Store guests can experience the restaurant before they even arrive,? he said. ?The ultimate reason [for paperless menus] is to improve the dining experience.?

Leveraging mobile
From fine-dining restaurants to roadhouses to doughnut shops, restaurant brands are leveraging mobile to attract new customers and build loyalty with existing ones. 
Mobile allows restaurants to connect with patrons both inside and outside the premises, bringing the dining experience to people where they make dinner plans. 

An upscale German restaurant group?s testing of Apple?s iBeacon technology is streamlining the in-store experience with a mobile application that rewards loyal customers for spending time there.
Mook Group?s application uses beacon transmissions to locate restaurant guests and document their visits, ranking them by the amount of time spent at each location. Guests with higher-level status can earn rewards such as a free drink, guest-list placement or a quick table, by showing their status records to the restaurant host. 

Although fast-food restaurants have used beacons, the technology?s use by upscale dining establishments signals its rapid acceptance into the mainstream in just over a year after its introduction.

?Everyone has had the experience of ordering something from a paper menu and then having the dish arrive looking different than expected,? Mr. Serfass said. 

?Also, most people have ordered food or wine on a paper menu that the restaurant is out of.  Digital menus showcase a restaurant's offerings and are up to date in real-time.  Customers get a much higher quality dining experience with digital menus.?

Subtleties lost
Mobile menus detail subtleties that can be lost in traditional paper menus.

For instance, the Bull & Bear?s digital menu includes tasting notes for its wine selection. This feature empowers the service team to have a much more valuable discussion with the guest, according to Mr. Serfass. 

Mobile also can support the wait staff, a seminal part of the dining experience, in contrast with technology that has been aimed at eliminating servers.

?One powerful dynamic of digital menus that are designed correctly is that the guests feel better about their dining experience while they increase their spending at the restaurant,? Mr. Serfass said. ?Many times a guest does not order something because they don't have enough information or inspiration from a paper menu. 

?People mostly go out to have a great experience and paper menus leave much to be desired in that regard.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Marketer, New York.