iPads as Menu Cards - The Koh Way

The guys at Tech2 are a hungry bunch! We’re hungry for reviews, news, contests and obviously when the going gets tough, we crave for food! While we mostly head in a horde to the cafeteria to get our grub, we have our times of some extraordinary fare. A couple of days back, I got a chance to go to Koh, a Thai restaurant at The InterContinental, Marine Drive.

Welcome to the world of food and tablets!

While most of you might think food was my prime reason for my visit, the hunger was actually for something interesting I'd heard. Koh was using iPad menus! “Wow!” I thought, “Something interesting to cover and tell many who visit Tech2!” So after fixing an appointment with Mr. Romil Ratra, the General Manager of InterContinental, I set out to discover the whole new experience that iPad menus can give us. What follows are my findings.

The menu for Koh is on iKoh, an app that the GM and the restaurant’s Master Chef Ian Kittichai (arguably the BEST Thai Chef, according to Mr. Ratra) developed with the help of an app developer (identity is a secret, apparently). The process involved a lot of research on various things and about 3 months of testing and taking feedback. Just in the first version, the team has plans to develop the app further in the future.

Order, order!

So how does it work? Well, you ask the waiter for the menu and, lo and behold, the waiter comes with an iPad, snuggled in a neat cover with a stand at the back so it’s convenient to place on the table. The home screen has the basic categories of food (which has appetizers, entrees, rice/noodles and curries), liquids and Wine & Champagne. Select any option and it goes to that screen, showing you a whole list of the various mouth-watering delicacies that the restaurant offers. Although you might be a Thai cuisine aficionado, there are quite a few chances that you haven’t tried “everything” on the menu. See something that you can’t pronounce (and visualize)? The menu has a few highlighted food items. Stuff that you would want to take a look at before you order! Not that it won’t taste good, but you surely wanna know what you eat. So click on this option and you have a clear picture showing you what it looks like.
Once you’ve selected your choice of food items, the waiter takes them down (but, why did you have an “iPad” if the waiter’s going to do the ground work? We’ll come to that in a while!) and you’re left to your own devices, where you can make small talk with your partner or can continue playing with the iPad.

Chef Ian Kittichai

There are a couple of options where you can read about the restaurant’s history and geography, and last but not the least, their philosophy. Wanna know about your chef? There’s something about that as well. Mr. Ratra says that it’s a good way to connect with your customer, and it definitely is a good read.

Feed us back now!

Once you’re done with the food, the waiter comes back with the bill and an iPad again, this time asking for your feedback. Select the options on different aspects of food, ambience, service, etc.

The million dollar question?

Once you're done with all that, you're faced with the final question - "Are you feeling Koh?", to which you can answer with a yes or no. It’s basically a question of whether you appreciated the kind of treatment you received and if you've felt connected with the restaurant. Answer with a yes, and all is well. Answer with a no, and you will be requested to wait for a few more moments until the manager comes up to you and asks you about what you found lacking. Now that’s what you call concern for the customer!
The session didn’t end there, as there were still some questions lurking in my mind. I agree that using an iPad for a menu is unique and innovative, but if there’s no functional advantage, doesn’t it seem to be an expensive option? “This is just the beginning,” says Mr. Ratra, “we have two more phases!” Two more phases, is it something that I’ve already thought of? A little bit. The second phase includes the app going online, which means that you can download the app from the iTunes store on your own iPad, and probably also pre-order and book tables. If you want to take your friends out, the menu has a price listing which helps you to zero down on a particular budget. Now that’s nice, a planned evening and you are not in for a few unpleasant surprises when the bill is out! The third phase is where the whole system gets integrated, that is, apart from handing you the iPad, the waiter doesn’t have anything much to do. Your order reaches the counter right from the iPad, ensuring fast and efficient service!

The man with the machine: Mr. Romil Ratra posing for Tech2

When are these phases likely to be implemented? Any given date? Not really. The first stage was planned to be completed in a month, but with much feedback relating to different things like the font and pictures of food, the finished app was out after three whole months! So it’s quite likely that the upgrade will be worked upon and should be out sometime next year.

I was asking myself at the end, “Did I feel Koh?” And oh yes, I did. Even Koh-ler than before! It’s great to see technology touching different fields than the usual business streams. We want to see some more stuff like this every now and then. If you have seen something that’s out of the box, do let us know in the comments section below or send me a mail at ashish@tech2.com

Published Date: Dec 02, 2010 12:40 pm | Updated Date: Dec 02, 2010 12:40 pm