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Dubai’s iGnorant iNane iPad iMenus


Kipp is baffled by those restauranteers in Dubai who choose to use iPads as nothing more than a glorified photo frame. With such a superior triumph of technology at their disposal, it seems sinful to use the tablet for the express and sole purpose of browsing images...

August 21, 2012 3:24 by

Unlike some of my proactive opportunist colleagues who flew out for the Eid holidays to exotic islands and foreign shores, I chose to spend my break in a typical Dubai-an way. I, unfortunately saw (and slept through) the latest installment of the Batman trilogy. I waited outside The Cheesecake Factory for two minutes after I decided the suggested two and a half hour waiting line was just downright ridiculous-and so I ate elsewhere. In fact, I should alter my former statement to I ate everywhere (hey, that is what you do in Dubai, isn’t it?).

This time around as I sampled a new haunt everyday (much to the horror of my arteries and waistline) I unfortunately became rather acquainted with UAE restauranteers’ growing fascination with the iPads. Now don’t get me wrong, the electronic menu arrived in Dubai’s culinary scene well before this Eid-but what surprised me this time around was the endorsement of the iMenu by relatively lower end restaurants.

And as much as I am all for restaurants embracing technology (the operative word here is ‘embracing’) I was really quite shocked at the use (for lack of a better word) these restaurants put their expensive menus to.

Let me take a step back and explain. When I walked into a considerably well known restaurant in a shopping mall I was a little confused when the waiter handed me both an iPad and a paper menu. Shouldn’t it be one or the either? Oh well, perhaps they are anticipating resistance from their less tech-savvy customer. As  the tips of my fingers swept across the iPad screen, the reason for the paper menu soon became pretty obvious. With all the apps wiped off the iPad, the only icon remaining on the screen was the Gallery. Upon viewing the gallery I was faced with a stack full of pictures of food-which had no information attached to it. There were no names, no numbers, no details about the ingredients, absolutely nothing. Nothing, nada, zilch, zip. Ah, but this is what the paper menu is for. Though it did not have any pictures, the paper menu had all the other important details. So what followed was an infuriating game of matching the image with the potential name of the dish. At one point we got so frustrated with the mind games, we recruited the assistance of a passing waiter. You won’t be too surprised if I tell you he was just as, if not more, confused.

The next afternoon I went to another restaurant for lunch. This time around when I received both the paper and electronic menu at the same time, I was unfazed. Like the previous restaurant, the iPad was wiped clear of apps-with the exception of Photo Booth, Facebook and a Gallery. The gallery consisted of a very photogenic representation of the contents of the menu with captions-but nothing more. If you wanted to find out the nutritional components of the meal or if you wanted to double check if the meal contained traces of the spice you have a fatal allergy to, well—good luck. Once I had decided what I wanted, I tried to place my menu on the iPad…no such luck. The waiter was soon by our table with an analogue piece of paper and a pencil. Now although the restaurant was a good place to eat in terms of ambiance and food, the inadequate and insufficient use of the iPad left a bitter taste in my mouth.

What I want to know is how companies rationalise spending thousands upon thousands of Dirhams buying these shiny toys—but at the same time will not spend a single Dirham to develop an app which presents the menu in a smart and informative way. Or how can the company can justify sending their waiters around to collect and relay orders instead of allowing customers to send their orders directly to kitchen, via the iPad you have placed into their hands?

Look, this isn’t exactly rocket science. Restaurants all over the world have embraced the iPad and they put it to spectacular use.  Not only do other restaurants provide their patrons with smart and interactive electronic menus which are very informative, but these tablet menus can also be used to place an excessively customized order and even pay. When it comes to social media, some restaurants have ensured they have an app for Facebook and Twitter ready and in fact, some even offer a 5 percent discount of the bill if the diners ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ the brand when given the electronic menu. You could even take the lead from those restaurants who like to streamline their data-entry process and ask their customers to fill in feedback or loyalty program forms straight away into the tablet.

There really are unlimited opportunities to maximize the use of an iPad, but unfortunately restaurants in Dubai chose to use the electronic menu as nothing more than a glorified photo frame. With such a superior triumph of technology at their disposal it almost seems like a sin to use a spectacular iPad for the express and sole purpose of browsing images. It doesn’t make financial sense and Kipp, for one, is looking more than forward to the time when restauranteers wake up and upgrade to Web 3.0.

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  1. marwan on August 22, 2012 11:50 am

    god ur losers kipp, i dont know where in hell did u come from or what r u looking for attacking dubai on every report but as person who love this city and see it as its the greatest city in the middle east and one of the best in the world have to question ur motive or whos behind u.cause i dont belive all those attacks come just like that .but again i think ur so called reporters are just group of losers who dont have better thing to do then to attack our city but let me tell u the more u attack the more we get famous so keep them coming ur losers

  2. Jeff Coker on August 22, 2012 12:06 pm

    That is exactly the issue that our product has remedied. We have just begun operations in the Middle East and you should see our product in restaurants soon. Aptito is not just a photo album. Customers can order, request a waiter, customize dishes, send special instructions to the kitchen, rate dishes for management, post impressions to Facebook and Twitter, and more, all from the iPad at their table utilizing Aptito digital menu. We also have an integrated POS.

  3. Sohan on August 22, 2012 3:31 pm

    @marwan: I can’t imagine how paranoid one must be to judge an article like this as an attack on Dubai itself.

  4. Guy Roukaerts on August 22, 2012 3:45 pm

    Great article. Have they never heard of, say, Aurasma? That would bring their menus to life!


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