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A La Touche: Serving up a virtual menu

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Take the waiting out of the waiter service at restaurants and let your fingers order your favourite dishes over the tabletops with interactive menus.

Jiby Mathews, director of Touché Diner Bar in Bangalore, had thought of revolutionising the restaurant’s food and drink section with an easy-to-use touchscreen menu about five years ago. By then, the West had already latched on to the idea of serving a virtual menu.

Mathews, however, stopped short of getting rid of the waiters. “The diners are not confused as the interface is very user-friendly. In addition, we have a hostess explaining guests how to order using the tabletop. So far, we have had no instances where users have not been able to use the device on their own.”

A regular at Touché, Radhika Sachdeva says: “While some might be intimidated at the thought of a touchscreen dining experience, we found the process so simple that my children too loved it.” Sachdeva goes on to add: “Once you have reviewed the items to be ordered, it is passed on to stewards who carry Samsung Galaxy tablet PCs. Here on, the orders are passed on to the kitchen or the bar through Wi-Fi connectivity.”

Touché developed an indigenous software to cater to its needs. “A design team comprising six software professionals worked on the touch-enabled tables or the diner.” Mathews invested over Rs 1 crore on the touch table set-up apart from the regular expenses to open a restaurant.

While Mathews says it takes some extra effort to maintain a touch table restaurant – the touchscreens need to be calibrated everyday to make sure the display responds as accurately as it should – he is confident of expanding his business to other cities soon.

Kumar K, who visits Touché often, says: “The restaurant is a hit among the younger Bangolreans due to its originality. I simply love the fact that I can see pictures of dishes or drinks on offer before I order.” He feels the tables at the restaurant are inspired “from the revolutionary Microsoft Surface.”

Touché is not alone. Touchscreens are fast finding their way into the Indian hospitality sector. Leading players like Intercontinental, Taj and Four Seasons, among others, have integrated tablet PCs across restaurants, lobbies and for guests checking into their hotels.

Intercontinental offers iPads to their guests when one checks into some of their locations: InterContinental New York Barclay, InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta, InterContinental London Park Lane and the InterContinental Hong Kong. Back in Mumbai, Koh, the Thai restaurant at the InterContinental hands out Apple iPads to its guests instead of menu cards.

The best part of having an interactive system is that the restaurant can widen its value-added offerings any time. For instance, Mathews plans to introduce social media features on the dining tables. “We are soon integrating Facebook and Twitter interactions with all our applications available from the table.”

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