Philly restaurant Apricot Stone will FaceTime you to recreate the restaurant experience at home
At the Armenian BYOB in Northern Liberties, Ara Ishkhanian is doing his best to make customers feel like they’re dining out
in Northern Liberties, owner Ara Ishkhanian is offering himself as a virtual host, server, and sommelier.“One of my favorite things to do at work is interact with our guests,” Ishkhanian says. “Now, I’m bored, other people are bored, and people are missing out on special events, like birthdays and anniversary dinners. We’re trying to recreate that experience as best we can.”
The first step in Apricot Stone’s virtual dine-in experience is to phone the restaurant and make a dinner reservation. Ishkhanian will email a few questions, a menu, and a list of recommended wine, beer, and spirits pairings.At the agreed-upon day and time, Ishkhanian calls via video chat: FaceTime, Duo, or Skype. Answer and you’ll see him standing at the restaurant next to a table set with water and wine glasses. Music plays in the background as he guides you through the menu and takes your order.
Food options are from Fimy Ishkhanian, Ara’s mother and Apricot Stone’s chef and co-owner. She grew up in an Armenian family in Aleppo, Syria, and the dishes are ones any fan of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines will recognize, like baba ghanoush, stuffed grape leaves, borek, and kebabs. “She’s the talent,” the son says.
He knows exactly when the food order arrives because delivery is handled by the restaurant’s front-of-house staff, not an outside service like Grubhub. Employees also make money through the virtual dine-in experience, Ishkhanian says, since a 20-percent gratuity, added automatically to the check, goes to them.
Once he gets word that the food was dropped off, he waits five minutes or so and then calls via video chat again. He might fill a glass on his table as he checks in on yours, before leaving you to enjoy the meal. Read more: Eater »
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