(photo from Google images)
I read an interesting article on New York Times about iPad finding a function as a wine list and doing well. That reminds me of how I had put ratings of both Robert Parker and Wine Spectator on the last wine list I had made to the surprise of some people in the business (too much junk goes on the lists and hide behind cool or not pronounceable foreign names). I also included some wine notes about contents of the wine, flavors and any info that would help in selecting the wine. The REAL motivator behind all of this work was to stop the questions the guests asked from the waiters requiring my summon to the tables. I was amazed how the sales continued to be very well but almost all questions stopped. It was rare that a knowledge point behind the little I had put on the menu would be asked. I realized later that was due to two things: The guests think they are very wine savvy and like to play sommelier themselves (as another sommelier put it to me when saw the list “letting the guests be the sommelier”) and the waiters memorized what was written thus extending their KNOWLEDGE and appearing smart with wine (as one would memorize statements in another language not knowing the tongue). The overall effect was very good however. The time needed to choose wine is very limited and if everything can be tailored to have the proper answers to the guests questions a very good match could be made best for the guest and hopefully the house (price?). iPad may or may not be the right tool at $500 a piece. I read iPads have done well in this case but overall many will be stolen if not damaged by accident. The rise of tablets in 2010 as an alternative to laptops could mean cheaper alternatives can be made for more restaurants and the like. The software will probably become generic also. I would not be surprised if the big distributors offer to customize a masterlist of their offerings for each house (many prefer a static list and not paying for qualified wine staff) and artificial intelligence sommelier arises. Some may doubt such developments but the same good old way of getting things done will make such things happen in no time. A cynical person may tell the truth that a small kickback to the right person in the house will help choose a cool wine and beverage list with the device (probably free from the distributor) over the troubles of human wine buying and selection. A handheld device can replenish regularly also and manage inventory. An automated wine department could be efficient but will wipe out so much of this field making a restaurant or the like the perfect output station for the large producers and distributors. I hate to admit we are not far from this taking place and personally love a handheld device that let me read what I am interested in and follow that line to something I can choose to drink and also eat but the reality is this system will be taken over by the big companies to direct what is in their warehouses into our glasses. I wonder how long before human wine staff will be redundant because the big boys know the money is made without them???