Are Paper Menus on the Way Out?

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More restaurants are adopting digital menus. There are pros and cons to the approach, but what do you think?

If you’re not a big fan of smartphone culture, bad news: There will soon be more people staring blankly at a digital screen while you’re having dinner out.

Restaurant chain Chili’s already plans to have tabletop tablets at every restaurant by the middle of next year. Now NPR’s Nevin Martell says several other restaurants are looking at ordering by tablet.

At a Washington, D.C., tapas restaurant called Jaleo, Martell wasn’t given a traditional menu, but a tablet, and it slowed down the ordering process. “As I immersed myself in the app, I got so into it that the waiter had to stop by three times before I was ready to order,” he says.

The company that owns the restaurant says digital menus can be updated more quickly and conveniently, an obvious boon for owners. But they can also show more information than fits on a paper menu, Martell said.

Steve Martorano, owner of Café Martorano in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., explained to Martell why that might be good for consumers even if it delays their ordering. “People who have been coming in for 20 years have told me they have always ordered the same thing, simply because they didn’t know what guanciale was or what a certain kind of pasta was,” he says.

And with that kind of information, people apparently spend more. Martorano’s sales have risen 23 percent since he switched to tablet menus.

Want to boost your chances of getting a traditional menu? Try sitting outside. Four iPads have been stolen from Jaleo since they were introduced last year, so now customers seated outdoors only get paper menus.

What do you think about digital menus? Have you used one? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

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