There have been a lot of exciting
developments when it comes to use of tech in the bar trade recently. These days
it’s far from unusual to be offered an iPad in lieu of a drinks menu or wine
list. The Chicago Cut Steak
House was one of the first to do this and now it’s something you see in
a lot of places. Full iPad ordering systems are the logical next step and the
late lamented Rex and
Mariano in London’s Soho – now Zelman Meats – had one of the best in place, cutting back on
service costs while also allowing you to top up your order throughout your
meal. With them it was never a gimmick, rather a way of being able to serve
superb seafood at sensible prices via a new service model.
Of course tech is sometimes more gimmicky but no less fun. Inamo – a London bar and pan-Asian restaurant with branches in Soho and St James – has a unique table top ordering system where the menu is projected from above onto diners’ tables and you can place your order direct with the kitchen. Here it’s part of the theatre of the meal, the fun part of the experience. Amo Eno is a Hong Kong wine bar which similarly allows guests to pick their wine selection from interactive touch screen tables, these wines are then dispensed from enomatic self-serving machines – a fantastic innovation which allows people to sample the kind of expensive wines that would have been unavailable by the glass in the past. Enomatic machines are becoming increasingly common in wine bars, something which pleases us no end. Tokyo’s Graffiti Bar takes things a step further boasting a large, elaborate touchscreen display from which guests can peruse its menu, order drinks, play games and even create virtual graffiti on its interactive screens.
Also falling into the gimmicky-but-fun category is Reserve Bar Stock Exchange in the City, where customers can download a special app to check the price of drinks as they surge and slump throughout the night, and then choose their tipple depending on price. Orders can also be placed via the app, and bar tenders come by to mix drinks at your table, so there’s no need to wait your turn at the bar. It’s entirely in keeping with the City surroundings and adds a fun element to a night’s drinking. Brew Exchange in Austin Texas has a very similar set up, albeit focusing on beer, with prices fluctuating throughout the night. Popular beers increase in price while neglected tipples decline across the course of the evening.
Obviously it’s in places like Las Vegas where you can find the most extravagant tech. The EyeCandy Sound Lounge is a case in point. One of the bars in the Mandalay Bay Casino, it’s got a seriously high-tech sound system and more of those interactive touch tables, though these allow customers to create and project images and messages onto the venue’s various big screens, as well as order.
As exciting as some of these developments are, adding an interesting new dimension to the bar industry, sometimes it’s the simplest things that please the most. It may not be digital and it’s far from revolutionary but we still love the ‘press for champagne’ button at Bob Bob Ricard’s, also in Soho. We defy anyone not to press that button.