Florida-based Carmel Café & Wine Bar offers a fresh approach to casual dining, with a modern Mediterranean menu and a comfortable, colourful environment that encourages guests to relax and linger. But the real innovation at Carmel Café is iPad. This rapidly expanding restaurant group uses iPad everywhere — from the dining room to the kitchen to the business office. iPad makes customer interactions, food preparation and other essential functions faster, simpler and more responsive.
“We began the concept of Carmel Café & Wine Bar with technology, innovation and creativity as part of our mission, and with iPad at the epicentre of everything,” says co-founder Nancy Schneid. “iPad provides a fabulous, interactive experience for our guests. It allows us to communicate, interact and do things in zero time.”
With iPad at every table, choosing food and beverages becomes an entertaining and engaging experience. Guests view high-resolution photos of menu items, select portion sizes and tap to order. Their choices are sent directly to the kitchen or bar, speeding the delivery process and virtually eliminating errors.
“The idea was to blend great hospitality — food and service — with technology, and iPad was the best device,” says Terry Ryan, president and co-founder of Carmel Café & Wine Bar. “Most guests are amazed at how fast the food comes out. There’s no delay, no interruption of getting that food order to the kitchen. It’s immediate.”
Terry Ryan, President and co-founder, Carmel Café & Wine Bar
With four locations established in less than two years, Carmel Café is growing fast. The business is the brainchild of co-founder and well-known restaurateur Chris T Sullivan, whose goal was to reinvent traditional restaurant systems using the latest technology.
“One of Chris’s biggest challenges to me was, ‘We’ve gotta get rid of the paper’,” Ryan says. “With paper menus, every time you update the menu, you have to do a major reprint. It costs a lot of money and takes a long time. But with iPad, it happens within minutes.”
There’s less paper in the kitchen as well. With an iPad at each prep station, the restaurant’s 160 recipes are instantly accessible and can be modified quickly to accommodate seasonal ingredients, special diets and available supplies. “We can change the recipe, do the update and it’s done,” Ryan says.
iPad is also affecting Carmel Café’s waiting staff in positive ways, says Ryan “One of the things that Chris pointed out to us was that ‘waiters can manage more tables with iPad and provide a higher level of customer service, enabling them to earn more in tips. It's a 'win win' for guests, employees and the restaurant.’”
Even training is simplified thanks to iPad. “Normally you would have a manual for every discipline: waiters, commis waiters, dishwashers,” says Ryan. “Now we use iPad for training, it’s amazing how much iPad shortens the learning curve for our employees.”
Nancy Schneid, co-founder, Carmel Café & Wine Bar
Carmel Café & Wine Bar relies on several customised apps to streamline operations and deliver a uniquely interactive customer experience.
The MenuPad app displays vibrant, detailed photos and descriptions of items on Carmel Café’s menu. It also connects to the restaurant’s point-of-sale system, so customers can order more food or drinks without flagging down a waiter, and quickly pay when it’s time to leave.
“In any restaurant, the menu drives everything,” Schneid says. “MenuPad on iPad allows us to create choices for the consumer — not only in how fast or slow their dining experience is, but also in choosing portions for themselves.”
The moment guests tap to send their orders to the kitchen, another app takes over. “The FusionPrep app allows every one of our cooks and chefs to be on the same page about how to make an item,” Ryan explains. “They can see specifically what they need to make at their stations. And at the front of the line, the expediter sees the whole ticket. They bring all the dishes together, garnish them and the waiters run them out.”
TapGuest, a web app, enables the restaurant to text or phone guests on their mobile phones when their tables are ready, eliminating the need for bulky pagers. Staff members also use the iSchedule app from the App Store to check schedules and swap shifts.
“These apps have created enormous savings and increased our productivity and efficiency,” Schneid says. “We’re bringing an enhanced experience and a sense of choice to the consumer while offering unparalleled hospitality — and iPad is central in accomplishing that.”
Putting control of the dining experience into the hands of customers has been a winning strategy for Carmel Café & Wine Bar.
“The consumer response has been amazing,” says Schneid. “They love using iPad. Even if people are sceptical when they walk through the door, by the end of their dining experience they can’t wait to tell their friends and come back and experience it again.”
With the increased efficiency and customer engagement that iPad and apps bring to the table, Carmel Café is ideally positioned to expand its innovative casual dining concept to new markets.
“Everything we’ve done in the past, we couldn’t do it as quickly or as productively as what we’re doing today,” Schneid says. “We’ve just scratched the surface of the opportunities that iPad and apps can bring to the restaurant industry.”
FusionPrep provides recipe preparation instructions.
iSchedule facilitates the review and management of work schedules.