The New York Times has posted a lovely story about how an “old-school” restaurant in Coney Island, Brooklyn has started using iPads to take customers’ orders. It’s a really nice piece about how the traditional restaurant that first opened in 1907 is embracing new technology.
In the feature, The Times’ Julie Satow talks to Jerry Costigliola, who has been a waiter at Gargiulo’s for 29 years, which is more than half his life. Previously, Mr. Costigliola used the traditional pad and pen to note down customers’ orders, but he tells Satow that 3 months ago he started using an iPad instead.
“It took some getting used to, don’t get me wrong,” said Mr. Costigliola. “But as long as you don’t get aggravated and make a mistake, the iPad makes the job easier.”
Satow says that the fact that Gargiulo’s is “like opening the door to an earlier era, when fine dining meant white linen tablecloths, valet parking and book-length menus heavy on the red sauce and the waistline,” meant that many of the regulars were taken aback somewhat when the waiters started using iPads to take their orders. Apparently, the strict dress code for diners has also softened slightly to go with the shiny new iPads, with some diners even being allowed in wearing shorts!
Satow writes that the modernising moves by such a traditional restaurant are mainly down to two factors: the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, and the revitalizing of the Coney Island neighbourhood.
“Coming out of this Sandy mess, we saw it as a great moment for transformation; it’s a new Gargiulo’s” said Nino Russo, who inherited the restaurant along with his brothers.
Following the impact of Sandy, the restaurant had to have extensive renovations, which provided the perfect opportunity to install the new $30,000 wireless sales system that the waiters can now use to take orders on one of eight iPads and three computer stations, which instantly send the orders through to the kitchen staff. The iPad can also be used to add up the bill and print it out.
Some of the brothers have need convincing about using iPads in the restaurant, and there have been teething troubles, such as when most of the iPads succumbed to a wireless outage on Father’s Day, but overall it sounds like the move has been a popular one.
“I thought it was great that a place like Gargiulo’s, which is so homey and traditional, is keeping up with technology,” said Dr. Veronica Santilli, who has been visiting the restaurant since she was a child.
But while it looks like the iPads are here to stay at Gargiulo’s, the outlook for diners in shorts doesn’t look so rosy.
“Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a picnic area,” Nino told Satow. “We won’t seat you in a T-shirt and gym shorts. It has to be nice, Bermuda dress shorts.”
Photo credit: Victor J. Blue for The New York Times