iPad menus are slowly but surely being rolled out at local restaurants and across the ditch, and the digital media outfit driving them has high hopes of shaking up the hospitality industry.
Dineworks got its start when software designer Tim Ross and ex-chef Daniel Davis (above) crossed paths at Auckland co-working space The BizDojo, and later brought on designer Marty Batten.
This week, the company's launching Dineworks Touch, technology created specifically for the restaurant and catering industries, which has just been installed at Mt Eden's Molten restaurant (seven other Kiwi and Australian restaurants are next in line to adopt it).
The restaurants install iPads outside their entrances (securely mounted to a kiosk) that offer an interactive experience, from browsing the menu to showcasing specials or watching video and photos of dishes coming together from creation to plating.
According to Molten owner Sven Neilson: "Dineworks Touch is eye-catching and without doubt converting a larger number of walk-past business."
Dineworks creates the app and content for restaurants, which can be customised with logo and brand colours.
Dineworks cofounder Davis – who left cooking after six years to pursue his passion for technology and went on to found Dinetube, a website featuring video profiles of eateries – says this brings the benefits of a website to the restaurant floor.
"Many decisions of where to dine are made outside restaurants. Our app takes advantage of this bringing the essence of the restaurant and its food right to the door," he says.
"It brings the menu to life ... it's another level of seeing the food."
One particularly nifty aspect of the app is the ability to update information on multiple platforms from the central interface, and linking in with third-party dining guides and websites.
Say your menu or dining hours change with the new season; Dineworks will push that updated information beyond the app to your restaurant website and to your profile or listing on external food-focused sites and dining guides like MenuMania and Dineout.
"One of the biggest hassles for restaurateurs these days is keeping that stuff up to date," Davis says. "In some cases they're not even trying."
While some older restaurant-goers prefer to stick with paper menus, patrons are generally "all over it", eager to play around and test the app, according to him.
Overseas, restaurateurs are experimenting with iPad wine lists and a Sydney hotel restaurant replaced its printed menus in 2010 with iPads, which did everything from suggest wine matches to taking orders.
But Davis hasn't seen anyone is doing anything quite like this in New Zealand.
While for now Dineworks is concentrating on the Kiwi marketplace – "we were born in New Zealand and are lodging here first and foremost" – they'll be looking to widen their Australian reach after that, and two restaurants in Sydney are already poised to take up the technology.
Davis says one of Dineworks' partners is UK-based, so that's the next logical step, and all things going well hopes to have 1000 customers on the books in 12 months' time.