What do wines and apples have to do with Service Innovation?

I tweeted the title of this Blog recently and left the answer hanging as it does here.  Due to the raucous response of my fans begging me for it, I have decided to satiate their inquisitive appetite and finally post this Blog entry.  Ok, so if you replace “the raucous response of my fans begging me for it” with “a few of my friends asking if I’m actually going to post the Blog” you’re probably more accurate, but let’s not digress too far.

If you have read any of my posts, you will have recognized an underlying reductionist theme.  I often find myself trying to simplify things.  My posts about Service Innovation and Transformation carry these reductionist tones as well.  My most recent post, “The Fallacy of the Innovator’s Ambition – A Call for Tinkerers“, was very specifically a discussion of how innovators need to simplify their ambitions to protect being overwhelmed by them.

What does this have to do with wines and apples, you ask?

Well, I recently read a brief article in the New York Times about a restaurant in Atlanta called Bone’s that had integrated Apple’s iPad into the dining experience.   They had simplified their view of innovation and added a simple element to their service experience.  When patrons are greeted at the entrance for a table, they are handed a menu and an iPad.  The restaurant purchased 30 iPad’s and built an application that housed their wine inventory along with descriptions of the wine and expert ratings to help diners understand and select bottles.

(Pause: for those who haven’t made the connection, “Apple’s iPad” and “Wine Application” and “Bone’s Restaurant in Atlanta” is the answer)

Device inspired moment of truth

Customers to date (it’s been about two months since they have been offering the iPad experience) seem to be pleased by the twist to their dining experience, and if an 11 percent increase in wine purchases per diner is any indication, so is restaurant management.

What was interesting to me about this story was the simplicity of the addition of the iPad to the restaurant experience, the appropriate “fit” for the device at a table, and the utility of the application for a restaurant context.  Setting aside those individuals who know a lot about wine and wine pairings, wine lists at a restaurant for many represent an opportunity to use random selection as an efficient decision making tool (hold menu up – close eyes – point index finger somewhere on page – press against page – choose wine).   While the iPad and the wine application don’t turn patrons into wine connoisseurs overnight, it does empower them with knowledge so that a confidence is instilled in the choice that is made.  This confidence translates into positive emotions, and thus, a better dining experience.

The restaurant hasn’t disrupted the restaurant industry business model or invented a new food.  They have not redefined the dining experience or significantly altered the value proposition.  In fact, their location, staff, and menu likely hasn’t changed at all.   So, have they shown us a great example of Service Innovation?  Absolutely.


Stephen Karam is a Systemscope Partner with over 15 years of experience providing thought leadership and consulting services in the areas of government service transformation, multi-channel service delivery and related information management projects. Stephen has extensive experience in providing business transformation, project management, and business development services, giving him a unique background that allows Systemscope’s customers to realize the value of feasible service solutions within the context of their business. His in-depth understanding of the Government of Canada’s policies, practices, and culture contributes to his ability to propose workable, reliable, and repeatable business solutions for Systemscope’s public sector clientele. Stephen has more recently focused on government service transformation initiatives, including business vision & strategy, service delivery strategies, enterprise architecture, information management and project management consulting services for Systemscope’s clients.


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