A record number of 44 participating restaurants have signed on to put “the spotlight on Bermuda-inspired cuisine” in the fourth annual 2015 Restaurant Weeks.

The first to be launched by the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), the fourth annual event is also the first to be “driven by the latest in technology” with the launch of a computerised support system that takes reservations 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

The new system is featured on the new Table.bm website, “Bermuda’s only website for making online restaurant reservations for concierges, administrative professionals or in fact any diner”.

The new “fast and efficient way” for users to make reservations even before they arrive in Bermuda. The new free connect is operated by Gateway Systems Limited, dubbed on the website as “a leading supplier of retaurant automation in Bermuda”.

Restaurant Weeks 2015 was officially launched at the Bermuda Gas show room on Serpentine Road on January 14, 2015 to officially start the following day.

The significance of the event which runs through to February 5, is twofold. In addition to specialised set menus that run from $29, to $39, and up to $49 per person, Table.bm also launched the new ‘People’s Choice Awards’.

Participants can also enter “to win great prizes by simply voting on your favourite Restaurant Weeks Bermuda inspired meal”. The voting process is outlined on the website which says: “simply upload a copy of your Restaurant Week’s bill and a photo of your Bermudian-inspired meal”. And “be sure to share your Restaurant Weeks image and use#BermudaRW on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram”.

You “must be 18 or older to vote” by going online to www.gotobermuda.com, then click on ‘A Taste Sensation’ to vote”. “Special terms, restrictions and conditions” also apply. And participants are also invited to post their reviews of their dining experiences for others to read in the social network arena as well.

Participating restaurants also get “to showcase their establishments on another well used website” that publishes their “menus quickly and easily along with up to date information about Bermuda”. The “free basic service” is also available to non-participating restaurants.

Pat Phillip-Fairn, BTA Chief Product & Experiences Development Officer commended the team that “worked hard” to make the annual event “more technologically advanced, more costumer experience driven and more social media engaged”.

“However, all of those enhancements are secondary to the excitement surrounding the authentication of the experience.”

She also commended the record response by the participating restaurants. “As a result of their buy-in, this will be the most authentically Bermudian culinary experience since the first Restaurant Weeks in 2012,” she said.

The restaurants serving Bermuda-inspired cuisine are also marked with a Bermuda onion in the BTAs marketing materials.

Standing in at the launch for Ms PhillipFairn, Karla Lacey, the BTAs Chief Operations Officer said the featured menus promotes “the Island’s talented chef community” who “have long been one of the best kept secrets”.

“Not the BTAs Product and Experiences team is proving our culinary identity should be front and centre in the visitor’s experience, just as it has been for locals all along,” said Ms Lacey.

Diners will also be asked to “rate their culinary experience in an online survey and vote on whether they believe the restaurant is worthy of the new People’s Choice Award”.

“The leading vote getters will be invited to take part in a live cooking demonstration and award presentation at an event sponsored by Bermuda Gas,” she added. Leading prizes for participating Bermuda residents include a $500 travel voucher with a “variety of prizes” for visitors as well.

The colourful brochures handed out to the media and guests at the launch were designed to tempt the tastebuds of the “food lovers” targeted to get them to dine “at top restaurants and discover Bermudian culinary delights that will leave you wanting more”.

The BTA also “offered sincere appreciation to participating restaurateurs who, despite rising costs, have kept price points for their three course menus at the same levels as years past”.

The ‘Table Automated Reservations Assistant’ referred to as TARA, is “the new computer generated personna which allows Table.bm to contact, by telephone, all restaurants, even those not registered with the service”.

A spokesperson noted: “If TARA recognizes that she cannot email a particular establishment, she places a call to the main listed telephone number instead.

Once connected the person answering the phone will hear: “This is TARA from Table.bm, are you willing to take a reservation? The person at the restaurant answers ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and assuming an affirmative response TARA proceeds to give the name (spelling it if requested), the time and number of people for the request. The restaurant can then confirm or decline the request and the task is completed.

“TARA will keep trying if there is no answer to her phone call.” The new system is said to be “easy, quick and delivered at no cost to either party as a service”.

Tashae Thompson, BTA Chief Organiser for the campaign encouraged diners to visit Table.bm and vote for the ‘People’s Choice Award’. She described the new features as a way to demonstrate “one way we are working to enhance the culinary experience on behalf of visitors and locals while also growing the culniaryeconomy on behalf of our restaurant stakeholders”.

“When Gateway Systems told us they shared these exact same goals it was very easy to form this partnership. We are excited about the technological advances Table.bm has brought to Restaurant Weeks,” said Ms Thompson.

A new app will also be introduced to the local market to offer participants “an exciting user experience on their smartphone or tablet”. Restaurants can also “send messages about special events, new dishes or wines or even a copy of a menu to any mobile device user who has downloaded the application”.

Chief architect and director of Gateway’s Software Development team, Kevin Luckham said: “We needed to become familiar with the latest techonology and show the use of Microsoft Azure at a recent launch of the ‘Microsoft Cloud’ in Bermuda, so it made sense to come up with a practical application that could benefit the hospitality industry. We have more exciting enhancement ideas on the horizon.”

The fourth annual Restaurant Weeks 2015 which started on Thursday, January 15, runs through to February 5, 2015 and “is expected to be the most technologically advanced thus far.”

For more information visit Table.bm or email info@table.bm.

By Ceola Wilson