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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

13 Ways Your Restaurant May Be Using Technology to Woo You

By Meaghan Cameron

Is your favorite restaurant wired for your convenience? Check out the following ways your local establishment is keeping in contact with you.

1. Now more than ever, restaurants need to be aware of their web footprint when it comes to reviews and ratings on sites like zagat, gayot, dine, tripadvisor, yelp, urbanspoon and others. Most have their own iPhone app, too. When reading a testimonial, remember that many restaurants plan accordingly to boost their reviews.

2. With the Open Table app, you can find the nearest restaurants and openings wherever you are. Upscale restaurants are intricately connected to Open Table through their online registration system. This enables them to scan free tables and time slots and automatically populate it with reservations.

3. We bet your favorite watering hole knows more about you than your doctor. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations—they're keeping tabs and putting it all into the Open Table scheduling system.

PLUS: 20 Secrets Your Waiter Won't Tell You

4. Your restaurant wants you to tell your friends where you are with apps like Foursquare and Meetup. The apps allow users to “check in” at restaurants so friends can meet up with them. Think of it as real-time recommendations.

5. Imagine perusing a wine list on an iPad? Check out how this San Francisco restaurant is showing off its extensive collection on the iPad. Sound expensive? Some restaurants are constantly updating 100-page wine lists. The savings in paper per year would pay for a couple of iPads, one maitre d' said.

6. Most restaurants have their complete wine lists online. If you plan ahead, you can avoid having to quickly navigate a weighty wine list. You may even find a low-cost steal or rare vintage. Get reviews from Wine Spectator (members only), Wine Enthusiast, cellartracker or do a Google search for private wine bloggers to avoid making a pricey fumble.

7. If you haven’t reviewed the wine list ahead of time, try using an app that offers wine recommendations. Hello Vino suggests a wine for your meal. More waiters are using wine apps to help them offer the best recommendations.

8. Fast food chains may one day allow you to order on an iPad. Why not remove the middle man when ordering? This could work well at bars or pool halls, too, just as long as the iPad is bolted down and protected from hands covered in BBQ wing sauce.

9. Smart restaurant owners realize the importance of being on Facebook and Twitter. Next time you try a new place, see if you can find a Facebook page for it first. You’ll get a preview of daily specials and see just how popular it is. Plus, Facebook and Twitter can help foodies stay on top of "pop-up" restaurant spots and hot-ticket chef events

PLUS: 13 Things Your Bartender Won't Tell You

10. High end establishments may be posting pictures of the chef's most recent creations along with recipes. Sometimes, the quality of culinary photos may help determine the success of a restaurant. WD-50 is an example of one restaurant that gets the power of online presentation.

11. Chefs are beginning to share their best cooking tips on video. Check out your favorite restaurant’s site and you may find cooking videos like these from Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a top choice for sustainable, farm-fresh cuisine in New York.

12. WiFi is a given for most top tier restaurants. If that's not the case, check with the restaurant to see if you can hook up to their local wireless.

13. Planning a wedding or special event at your favorite restaurant? Some restaurants project past special events on flat screens and using electronic picture frames. Next time you visit, take a look. You'll get great ideas and see how good the staff is at executing special events. Why take chances?