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Column: ‘Smart’ dining reaches Paris


The coquille dish is served at a restaurant in Paris. Many restaurants in Paris have switched to iPad menus. Buy Photos

You don’t really realize this when you spend day after day maneuvering your boots over cobblestone and pushing your way into 1990s-era metro cars.

However, the idea was placed in my head the other night.

I was seated in a nice seafood restaurant, and rather than have a menu placed in my hands, the waiter put an iPad in front of me.

My family, who is currently here to visit me, paused. We were unsure of what to do.
None of us have ever had to sift through an iPad for this reason. In fact, I hardly ever use them for any reason beyond recreation.

I mean, every so often, I see them used as a point-of-service system for small businesses, but I have never seen them used on such a big scale.

Realizing I was still in a restaurant, and in need of an order, I ducked my head back down to the iPad and flicked my finger across the menu. I was pretty fascinated by how well placed the technology was in a professional setting.

Much like how eReaders cut down on weight for a book, the iPad cut down on pages for the menu. Instead, there were panels at the top designating dish types.

Also, being in a tourist destination, there were other languages offered.

Once you tapped a category, the background came to life as a slow-moving video.

In my case, I saw fog, induced by dry ice, seep around a shell-encrusted bowl of crab legs.  If I were curious about a dish, I could click on the name to see a full-sized picture of the plate.

Above all, the restaurant managed to put a sizeable menu inside a compact machine.

The daily specials were folded into the rubberized iPad cover.

Personally, I thought this was a fascinating idea that reflected the modern atmosphere of the restaurant. But I do have one question.

The interactive menu app, though highly entertaining, made us take twice as long to decide.

First, I spent five minutes discovering the menu. I played with the pages, changed the language and opened pictures of the food.

Then the waiter came for my order, and I realized I had spent the allotted time playing with the iPad, not picking my meal. I ended up picking the first thing I saw — the daily special tucked in the cover.

Unless I am slightly more unfocused than most people, I feel the extensiveness of the menu took away from the simplicity of what a menu should be — a way for one to choose a meal.


Follow Audrey Perkins on Twitter @AudreyNLP.

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