Restaurants Are Googling Customers to Determine If They’re “Worthy”

We’re not the only ones who think it’s creepy.

restaurants googling customers
Restaurants around the country are pre-screening customers who make a conversation. Is it ethical?
Patrick Tomasso / Unsplash
By Nicole Rosenthal / August 5, 2019 1:14 pm

It’s hardly a surprise that exclusive eateries go above and beyond to appease their posh clientele. But in order to receive more information on a certain customer and individualize the dining experience, some restaurants are turning to Google. 

According to the New York Post, Manhattan restaurant Fleming by Le Bilboquet filters their clients through Googling the names of those who make a reservation on their website (their website only consists of a large “F” above a link that reads “Email us!”). Hostesses are then instructed to research each name against a set of rigid criteria using an internal document dubbed the “Fleming Hostess Reservation Protocol.”

This practice is purportedly to “keep the restaurant for special people only” to create a “certain environment” for its rich clientele, according to an anonymous server at Fleming. While the report claims that non-wealthy folks are almost never granted a reservation, a representative for Fleming called the claims of exclusion “absolutely not true,” but admitted that the establishment does do some online research.

Yet, Fleming is hardly the only eatery to investigate foodies over the Internet. According to Vice, high-end restaurants have been doing it for years. The Elizabeth in Chicago has reportedly Googled customers mid-meal to make their clients a little happier. As managing partner at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group told the New York Times in 2012, “Data just gives us an opportunity to understand someone better.”

But according to Vice, the most extreme version of customer-Googling may be at Eleven Madison Park, in which so-called Dreamweavers (yes, that’s the actual job title) curate “special projects and requests from guests,” like the gifts of custom cat paintings or a toy bear made from a kitchen towel. Unsurprisingly, not everyone appreciates these little surprises: according to a 2015 survey by restaurant booking site Open Table, more people found the practice of Googling customers “creepy” than hospitable.

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