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3 On Your Side: Restaurant Databases

jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - It used to be that you had to be a real VIP to get recognized at your favorite restaurant. But as 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds, now your name, your favorite table, and even how much you tip can be stored in databases for instant access.

Before we walk into a restaurant, we typically know what we want. But now thanks to technology, the restaurant may know it, too! According to restaurant consultant Clark Wolf, “There was a time when it was all in the mind of a maitre d’ or an owner and they knew what you wanted to eat, what you wanted to drink, all by memory. Now it can be in the computer.”

Restaurants around the country are starting to keep detailed records of their customers in computer databases, ready to pull up and use the moment you walk through the door. The idea is simple, the more they know about you, the better they can serve.

Anne Shepherd is with Open Table. She says, “Who doesn’t like to go into a restaurant and be recognized, greeted by name, and maybe shown to their favorite table?” Open Table is one company that provides database software to restaurants. They say the information collected can run the gamut. According to Shepherd, “They might contain dates like birthdays or anniversaries. They could contain notations about allergies or dietary restrictions or things like favorite cocktail, favorite bottle of wine.”

But experts say these records can also contain information on how much you tipped or how long you stayed at your table. The restaurant industry insists the intent isn’t to be intrusive, it’s about using their knowledge to get the customers they want to return. So how can you tell if your favorite restaurant is keeping tabs on you? Experts say, if they’re doing it right, you’ll probably never know.

By the way, if you book online through a website like Open Table or Rezbook you can add special requests to your reservation which can be kept on file for future visits.

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