Keeping an “i”on technology’s user numbers and promotional potential

Keeping an “i”on technology’s user numbers and promotional potential

Shake your average cell phone, and the best thing that will happen is that it will still work. Shake an Apple iPhone or sister iPod Touch multimedia player, and you may be part of a cocktail lottery or experiment in better service.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. of White Plains, N.Y., is testing Hospitality Solutions International point-of-sale software on iPod Touch devices, confirmed vice president of information technology Mark McBeth. And the Froots Smoothies chain of Cooper City, Fla., is using SoftTouch LLC technology permitting guests to order and pay tabs using personal wireless-Internet capable, or Wi-Fi, devices, including an iPhone or iPod Touch.

But it may be that the potential positive impact on restaurants by iPhone and iPod Touch has as much to do with consumer considerations as it does with new operations-oriented applications tied to that technology.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple reportedly has sold more than 17 million iPhones in less than two years and peddled 22 million iPods last quarter alone, though it is unclear how many were high-end Touch models. Users of the online App Store, with more than 15,000 Apple and third-party software titles for the devices, made 500 million downloads in six months, Apple said.

iPhone and iPod Touch software is now available for consumer-oriented websites, such as Yelp.com and OpenTable.com .

Pocket Cocktails software, a compendium of beverage facts and recipes at the App Store, capitalizes on the iPhone/iPod “accelerometer,” which senses movement. The software randomly displays a drink recipe after users move their iPhone or iPod as they might a cocktail shaker.

Motivated operators could think up promotions leveraging this software or other App Store restaurant, food or beverage titles.

On Pocket Cocktails Tuesday, for instance, iPhone or iPod users might visit a restaurant bar to play “Shake ‘Em Up.” On the count of three, iPhone and iPod users would give their device a shake along with the bartender, who has one. Anyone whose device shows the same drink as the bartender’s wins a free appetizer or other prize. Having players text-message the name of the cocktail on their screen could help a restaurant build a mobile device-marketing database.

The growing crowd using lower-case “i” technology is bringing interactive devices into businesses daily. If yours needs some shaking up, now might be a good time to tap into that platform’s built-in fun factor.