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Naples Tomato Restaurant to Offer Virtual Sommelier

Naples Tomato, a nationally known restaurant in Naples, Florida, will provide guests with personalized, expert wine recommendations via an Apple Inc. iPad instead of a traditional sommelier. Working with marketing application developer innerbridge, Naples Tomato has created an application for the iPad that will let guests browse, search and expertly select from hundreds of wines without being pressured, misled, or upsold.

Naples Tomato is currently testing its Personal Sommeliers for iPad application with the restaurant's 550-selection, Wine Spectator-recognized wine list. The iPad application will be regularly available in the restaurant beginning in August. Other restaurants will be able to license the application later this year.

A virtual sommelier
The Personal Sommeliers for iPad application captures the services and judgment of a traditional sommelier. Using iPads provided at their tables, Naples Tomato guests will be able to receive recommendations on different wine pairings for specific entrees, and search wines by any combination of name, price, region, color, taste ("fruity," "dry") or ratings from The Wine Spectator or Robert Parker. They can read complete descriptions and tasting notes for wines. Guests then place their orders with their waiters, ordering by either name or bin number. The staff is available to discuss the recommendations.

"We love helping people — all kinds of people — enjoy wine and weave it into their lives," says Jack Serfass, co-founder and co-chairman of Naples Tomato Franchising, LLC. "We have worked with many sommeliers to build the knowledge base into the app so our guests get the benefit of many experts instead of just one."

"There's a dividing line between the few really great, professional sommeliers and the many average sommeliers. Our iPad application obviously won't replace the great sommeliers — who are usually at very high-end restaurants — but we think it will be a vast improvement over traditional American wine service. We plan on also using this app to improve wine education with our staff because good hospitality always comes down to a personal touch," says Serfass.

Ed Jamele, Jr., president of EWINE, LLC, will open the first Naples Tomato franchise, in Stamford, Connecticut, later this year. Jamele says: "Innovation is a big reason that we went with the Naples Tomato Franchise brand. We can't wait to offer our guests this new service. Naples Tomato has always been on the leading edge of restaurant innovation — for example, with its self-serve wine bar, C-Vap ovens and mozzarella bar. This latest innovation will help make our guest experience the most distinctive and creative in our local area."

Naples Tomato franchises will be the exclusive test site for the application in the Italian-restaurant category, and will receive early access to innovations and new features. Naples Tomato is currently in discussions with national restaurant franchises in other dining categories to become exclusive test sites. Because Naples Tomato and innerbridge jointly own the software code, Naples Tomato can create a differentiated version of the application for its franchisees and partners, with features different from those of the general version of the application.

For example, Naples Tomato intends to experiment with extending the application with new kinds of data and with technologies such as Global Positioning System (GPS) services.

"The iPad has the potential to revolutionize the hospitality industry," says Nadine Serfass, co-founder and co-chairman of Naples Tomato Franchising. "So much of what we do is providing recommendations and advice to our guests. Imagine being able to do that more effectively, conveniently and creatively for the guest. The possibilities — for improving traditional services and inventing new services — are truly endless."
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