De Santos: First Restaurant in New York Completely Run on iPads

At De Santos, the high-end restaurant serving up Italian-American fare in the West Village for the better part of three years, waiters buzz around armed with sleek iPad 2 tablets, swiftly taking orders and swiping credit cards on the devices.

Behold, the future of restaurants.

De Santos officially unveiled its new system August 1, thus earning the distinction as the first restaurant in New York completely run on iPads.

“The customers love it,” says Sebastian Gonella, one of the owners and co-founders of De Santos. “Who doesn’t like an iPad? They go nuts.”

While it may sound crazy to replace lined notepads that cost $1.50 with $500 iPads, De Santos owners claim the new system saves money—and allows the restaurant to make something of a fashion statement while streamlining its ordering system.

“Any business knows that technology is a very important tool,” says Gonella. “In the restaurant business, I was always certain that we were lacking on the visual aspect of it.”

The iPads can do everything associated with the day-to-day functions of the restaurant—namely, taking orders, sending them to the kitchen, and paying for the bill—but makes it simpler and much more time- and money-efficient. The customized POS system, which appears as an app on every server’s iPad, can access the restaurant’s table and seating chart, as well as a full visual menu from the kitchen and the bar.

With the entire menu in detail on the iPad, waiters simply choose each item from the library of menu options. Once the order is complete, it’s sent wirelessly to the kitchen and bar, where the order is printed out and punched. For the waitstaff, this means no more extra trips to the terminal to repeat the full order; this technology frees up servers to see more tables, take more orders, serve more drinks, and chat with customers.

When it comes time to pay the bill, De Santos eliminates the back-and-forth exchange of credit cards and receipts by completing the purchase tableside.

Compared to traditional POS systems like Aloha, which will typically cost a restaurant at least $30,000 to install, De Santos’s tailor-made POS system for the iPad took a fraction of the price to produce. Between contracting Igel to build the customized app and buying the 8 iPads and credit card swipers, the whole shebang cost about $18,000.

And thanks to the iPad’s compatibility with Apple’s other products, De Santos’s owners now have more control over their restaurant than ever before. The owners—Gonella, Luis Miguel Amutio, and Alex Gonzalez—can all monitor the entire restaurant from anywhere in the world from an iPhone and receive real-time data about the restaurant’s performance. Every transaction is immediately tabulated and analyzed.

While De Santos was the first to make the move to iPads, it surely won’t be the last.