Is the iPad the new sommelier?

An Atlanta steakhouse recently experimented with giving its customers a copy of the wine list loaded onto an iPad. The device allowed diners to learn more about the quality of the wines on the list. The iPad served as a credible authority on wine — and not a bad sales person, either.

Since their debut six weeks ago, the gadgets have enthralled the (mostly male) customers at Bone’s.  And to the astonishment of the restaurant’s owners, wine purchases shot up overnight — they were nearly 11 percent higher per diner in the first two weeks compared with the previous three weeks, with no obvious alternative explanation.

The restaurant’s wine steward was struck by the credibility of the machine over the human being.

“With the information on the device, they seem more apt to experiment by buying a different varietal or going outside their price range,” Mr. Reno said. “It stuns me, but they seem to trust the device more than they trust me, and these are people I’ve waited on for 10 years.”

Hat tip: Farnam Street.

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  • Economists Do It With Models

    I don’t know why this is surprising- unlike the sommelier, the iPad doesn’t care how much of a tip the bottle brings in. :)

    • TC Miles

      I would suggest it makes people make a decision without any pressure. Most people are uncomfortable talking to a sommelier because of the knowledge gap and the perceived agenda – hence decisions are quickly rationalised (i.e. 2nd cheapest bordeaux) and made.

  • Matt Fox:

    People also believe something more when it’s in writing. The ‘fancy’ technology coupled with the written word helps reduce sales resistance.

  • Ben K

    This situation probably gives the customer the feeling that they are making a decision themselves (based on research), thereby affording a greater sense of independence and perhaps an increased tendency to step outside of their normal range.

    • Nudge blog

      yet somehow taking the advice of a sommelier is considered lower quality research…

  • Ben K

    (oops, accidentally posted twice — see my comment below)