Some restaurant industry experts had a meeting planned this week to talk about how to enhance the positive, money-making effects of what they do.
The New York event was organized by Eleven Madison Park co-owner Will Guidara and former Per Se general manager Anthony Rudolf. Its focus was on mastering the art of hospitality. “You constantly have to go outside the box,” says Rudolf.
According to the New York Post, here are some ways he and other top names in the industry are doing just that:
1. Online Stalking: Patrons’ online photos are hunted down in advance of their arrival so they can be greeted by name. The crew at Alinea (Ah-lee-NAY'-uh) in Chicago also scans the Web for diners’ interests and professions in order to create a more personalized experience. Co-owner Nick Kokonas says, “For example, we had an architect, and we put him with one of our staff members who has an interest [in] architecture and art history.”
2. Pampering the kiddies. This can be crucial in a roundabout way. For example, on a December night, a family from Spain was dining at Eleven Madison Park when it started snowing heavily. The two children, who weren't used to seeing snow, were clearly excited by the falling flakes. So Guidara and his staff arranged to get the kids some sleds from a store - at 11:30 at night on a Saturday. "You should’ve seen their faces," he says.
3. Diner dossiers: Alinea's database of its customers boasts 190-thousand names. Proprietor Kokonas says, "Before you come in, we will look up your last visit, what you ate, what you liked, what you didn’t like, how many bathroom breaks you took." Not sure how we feel about that last one, but we're sure it's a mark of efficiency. The restaurant also uses its database to identify potential trouble customers as well as those with whom they have a great relationship.
4. Eavesdropping: One time, Guidara overheard diners at Eleven Madison Park talking before catching a flight back home. “They were saying the only thing they missed on their trip was a classic New York hot dog,” he says. “So we went out and got them a tray of hot dogs from the cart down the street. They were thrilled.”
5. Knowing when to butt out: People often go to restaurants for special occasions like big birthdays and marriage proposals. The key to making these moments special, says Per Se alum Rudolf, is to keep out of the way. He tells the New York Post, “It may sound a bit counterintuitive, but if 50 years from now they are remembering how great the restaurant was and not how special the proposal was, that’s a problem. The food and the beverage is secondary.” Dude, for that, you get a generous tip and repeat visits.