Is the wine list going digital? Yes, and those thick intimidating wine list binders may soon go the way of the rotary phone.
The first high-tech wine list, a wireless, handheld device, was unveiled at Aureole Las Vegas in 2001 and was then considered a futuristic gimmick. But today, just a few years later, high-end wine bars and a wide range of contemporary restaurants are using the latest digital technology to try to gain a competitive edge.
Wireless devices or displays help customers to navigate wine lists that used to be housed in thick paper books or binders with no photos. The new digital devices contain more detailed information, along with full-color images of the wine bottles and they allow the customer to sort through the list as he or she wishes, by color, region, varietal, etc.
Some restaurants prefer to keep the high-tech gizmos in the hands of servers only, but many are letting the customers browse with their fingers as they would with their iPhones.
Operators like how easily the electronic wine lists can be updated and how they streamline inventory management. But the primary appeal may be in how well the wired wine list will attract a new, younger tech-savvy customer.
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