Googling customers in the name of good service

New York City’s Eleven Madison Park – one of the world’s top-ranked restaurants – promises guests a multi-course culinary tour of “the extraordinary agricultural bounty of New York.”

To deliver customer service worthy of the $225 per person price tag, maître d’ Justin Roller spends his afternoons Googling guests before they arrive.

Roller told Grub Street:

“I’m looking for chef’s whites and wine glasses,”  he says. A shot of a guest wearing whites means a chef is probably coming to dinner. Wine glasses signify a potential sommelier (or at least a wine geek). This is just the beginning. If, for example, Roller discovers it’s a couple’s anniversary, he’ll then try to figure out which anniversary. If it’s a birthday, he’ll welcome a guest, as they walk in the door, with a “Happy Birthday.”

It gets even more personal:

“If I find out a guest is from Montana, and I know we have a server from there, we’ll put them together.” Same goes for guests who own jazz clubs, who can be paired with a sommelier that happens to be into jazz. In other words, before customers even step through the door, the restaurant’s staff has a pretty good idea of the things it can do to specifically blow their minds.

Top restaurants have long made it a point to know their clientele, though traditionally that knowledge comes from rapport, not from surreptitious investigation.

“Most people aren’t too hesitant to give up their personal information, but when it’s used for stuff they aren’t expecting, it feels like a violation,” Arstechnica’s Casey Johnston pointed out.

And at what point between reviewing the specials and placing an order do you start discussing Miles Davis with your waiter?

Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.
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