Restaurants have begun using iPads as menus.

It was bound to happen: A hi-tech fancy future infusing our otherwise boring lives with gadgets that can do things like transform restaurant menus into the main attraction rather than the meal itself. Menus could use the upgrade; they haven’t changed much since we stopped scrawling the Soup of the Day on cave walls. But come on now–it’s 2011. Welcome to the era of electronic menus.

Chicago Cut Steakhouse now offers 40 iPad wine menus for its customers’ perusal. They helped to develop an app that provides their patrons with detailed information and views of their wine selection that a paper menu typically cannot. They consider it their “virtual wine cellar” and plan to add functions that allow the bottle to spin so customers can read the backside of the bottle as well on the iPad menu.  There are plans to add videos (because watching a virtual person drink wine on an iPad is more fun than looking across your table at an actual person drinking wine?), and options for customers to email themselves directly from the iPad menu with the name of the wines they enjoyed at Chicago Cut.

Next time you’re at JFK airport, you might find an iPad kiosk, which you can use to order food—and have delivered—right to your gate, thanks to OTG Management who has installed more than 200 of them at the busy New York airport.

And why not?

As we’ve seen with the explosive popularity in foodie mobile phone apps showing no signs of waning consumer interest—from providing recipes to maps detailing directions to the nearest restaurant with vegan-friendly items to letting you know which pesticides may be on your strawberries—iPad menus could very well be here to stay. The electronic benefits go both ways, too. Retailers can capture more customer data through tracking with tools like the iPad, which, in theory anyway, informs their ability to provide offerings in the future that are better suited to your tastes and preferences. Imagine walking into your favorite restaurant and typing a password into the menu that will tell you about specials based on your previous ordering history.

Speaking to Fox News, Rick Blatstein, chief executive officer of OTG Management said, “I think eventually a significant number of restaurants will just use iPads for their menus.” He might be right. So where does that leave the takeout menu? iPhone or iPod Touch?

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Photo: Tom Raftery