On Wednesday, the world lost a creative genius and innovative leader, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. His creations and leadership skills were inspiring, and many in the restaurant industry are adopting the use of Apple devices for business. Patrick Albrecht, co-owner of Great Food Group with his father, Paul Albrecht, knows how important phones can be to the restaurant business — and not just for calling to make a reservation. He uses the phone to book a table for diners, but he prefers to use an app such as OpenTable. Albrecht outfitted the 15 managers of his three restaurants in Atlanta with iPhones, which they use to access the company’s Bento database, enterprise software and various apps that help them with everything from dimming the lights to picking the perfect wine pairing. I interviewed Albrecht about how mobile technology has made his business smarter.
Why did you choose iPhones over laptops or tablet computers?
They are always in our pockets and easy to carry around the restaurant. The managers spend so much time carrying things and doing things with their hands that is not possible to carry around a device the entire time.
What aspects of your business have been most streamlined by this technology?
Liquor inventory and ordering. Employee files, recipes, things that used to demand major amounts of paper are now in an easy-to-search database.
You use the WineSnob and Drinks apps to help with wine pairings and drink recipes, what other applications do you use in the restaurant?
Bobby remote to control all the TVs and cable boxes, Indigo to control all the lighting and thermostats, Security Spy for mobile streaming of our surveillance system and Evernote for collaboration on daily occurrences.
What has the customer response been like? How do diners feel about restaurant staff using iPhones table side?
We are not at that point of using iPhones table side, but we roll out our very own POS on the Apple platform next month. At that time all servers will be armed with the phone for order taking and swiping credit cards.
How has the introduction of iPhones to your business helped with marketing?
It’s a really cool device. When a customer asks for the channel to be changed and we whip out an iPhone to do it, they are impressed. Also, new staff can’t believe how easy we have made those old-fashioned restaurant systems, our ordering and even our employee write ups are all done on the phone. A lot of tech blogs and magazines are constantly getting in touch with us because they heard of what we have been doing. I get the occasional e-mail from Apple in California wondering what ideas we have implemented and was even on a conference call with Gordon Ramsey’s team in England who wanted to hear how we use our iPhones in the restaurant.
Did you have a staff training session to teach managers how to use the devices and the software?
The great thing about the iPhone is that not much instruction is needed. If a manager is used to the flow and touch technology, they very quickly pick up the additions we throw at them. A lot of times they help me add on to the systems that we already have in place and we get even better.
How has your restaurant integrated Apple technology? Share your ideas in the comments.