Complaints over restaurants Googling customers

Edinburgh chef Mark Greenaway doesn't agree with the practice. Picture: Jane Barlow
Edinburgh chef Mark Greenaway doesn't agree with the practice. Picture: Jane Barlow
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IT IS common practice for a diner to Google a restaurant before eating out to check on other customers’ experiences.

But now it has emerged that many high-end restaurants have started to Google their customers once a reservation is made, in an attempt to “enhance” their dining experience.

A report from restaurant reservation service OpenTable claimed that the practice, which began in New York, is becoming more widespread. A third of those asked said they find it “creepy”.

However, the study found that two thirds of people in the UK say they are not bothered by the idea of being Googled, while one in five regards it as a positive.

More than a third of diners said they would welcome a restaurant knowing key dates such as birthdays or anniversaries before they walked through the door for a special night out.

In the report, which is aimed at restaurateurs, OpenTable warned that maitre d’s should be careful what they reveal about their guests.

“If sensitively done, restaurants still stand to provide a heightened level of hospitality by doing some pre-shift sleuthing,” it said. “But be careful not to blurt out the names of your guests’ kids unless you want them running for the door.”

One Scottish restaurateur, who did not want to be named, claimed that the practice was “commonplace” among Scotland’s Michelin-starred restaurants and admitted that many restaurants would be particularly likely to Google a customer’s name if they booked a table for one – in a bid to identify any potential inspectors or food critics.

Top restaurant Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan is credited with starting the trend. It Googles everything from whether a guest is depicted in whites in social media pictures – indicating that a chef is potentially coming for dinner – to where the diner is originally from, in a bid to match them with a waiter from the same area.

Chef Mark Greenaway, owner of Restaurant Mark Greenaway on Edinburgh’s North Castle Street, said: “We don’t do it as we don’t have any reason to, nor the resources to look into every customer we feed.

“The reservation system we use holds on to any notes we make about customers’ dietary requirements or birthdays or anniversaries, so if they dine with us again we have that information.”

Edinburgh-based social etiquette expert Roddy Martine said: “Nowadays there is so much competition. I can quite understand why restaurants want to ensure that their customers are likely to turn up and want to make a fuss of them to encourage them to come back.”

He added: “The people who find Googling creepy are more often than not people who don’t want anyone to know who they are in the first place, which is creepy in itself.”