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AI Technology

To Survive in Tough Times, Restaurants Turn to Data-Mining (nytimes.com) 175

An anonymous reader shares a report: The early diners are dawdling, so your 7:30 p.m. reservation looks more like 8. While you wait, the last order of the duck you wanted passes by. Tonight, you'll be eating something else -- without a second bottle of wine, because you can't find your server in the busy dining room. This is not your favorite night out. The right data could have fixed it, according to the tech wizards who are determined to jolt the restaurant industry out of its current slump. Information culled and crunched from a wide array of sources can identify customers who like to linger, based on data about their dining histories, so the manager can anticipate your wait, buy you a drink and make the delay less painful. It can track the restaurant's duck sales by day, week and season, and flag you as a regular who likes duck. It can identify a server whose customers have spent a less-than-average amount on alcohol, to see if he needs to sharpen his second-round skills. So Big Data is staging an intervention. Both start-ups and established companies are scrambling to deliver up-to-the-minute data on sales, customers, staff performance or competitors by merging the information that restaurants already have with all sorts of data from outside sources: social media, tracking apps, reservation systems, review sites, even weather reports.
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To Survive in Tough Times, Restaurants Turn to Data-Mining

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  • by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Monday August 28, 2017 @01:47PM (#55098503)

    I'd rather eat at restaurants that were competently managed over restaurants that rely on spying on their customers in order to avoid having to be competently managed.

    • Time to face the truth methinks: Most people want to be spied on.

      They're got nothing to hide and it makes everything that happens to them more relevant and personalized. What's wrong with that? (shrug)

      • by redmid17 ( 1217076 ) on Monday August 28, 2017 @02:13PM (#55098677)
        No they don't want to be spied on. Indifference is entirely different than desire
        • I just avoid social media...period.

          I don't wish to voluntarily give the corporates this type of information.

          I also pretty much avoid chain restaurants where I guess this type of tech is the most prevalent.

          I prefer the local restaurants...and living in New Orleans, you can go forever and not even see a chain restaurant which is nice.

          • I also pretty much avoid chain restaurants where I guess this type of tech is the most prevalent.

            I thought what you thought, and even started writing a comment about that, and then decided to see if I was suffering from confirmation bias. My feeling was that restaurants wouldn't want to depend on cash registers as a service, but I was wrong [techcrunch.com].

            There's still plenty of old school restaurants around banging out orders on cash registers, but they seem to be giving up because you need to have computers in house anyway to support web orders. Web ordering is becoming very common now; virtually nobody is handling

            • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

              There's still plenty of old school restaurants around banging out orders on cash registers, but they seem to be giving up because you need to have computers in house anyway to support web orders. Web ordering is becoming very common now; virtually nobody is handling it in-house but pizza chains.

              Well, most restaurants use a POS system - the waiter/waitress enters the order onto the system, and it's automatically zapped to the back of the house for them to prepare you order. Only very small restaurants still

        • by DogDude ( 805747 )
          No they don't want to be spied on. Indifference is entirely different than desire

          Amazon. Apple. Google. Indifference doesn't cause people to deliberately take out their wallets, and give large amounts of money to people who are actively, obviously spying on them. I agree with the parent. Most people want to be spied on.
        • I'll be devil's advocate for a bit (mind you, I value my privacy but at the same time I try to remain objective even though I don't like what I see):

          You say "people don't want to be spied on" and I agree, fully. there's a small problem though... most data mining isn't the same as spying.
          I had to look up the definition, because I wasn't sure myself:

          verb
          verb: spy; 3rd person present: spies; past tense: spied; past participle: spied; gerund or present participle: spying
          1.
          work for a government or other organiza

      • Time to face the truth methinks: Most people want to be spied on.

        I even dance naked in front of my unsecured security cameras with whipped cream on my nipples.

        • Time to face the truth methinks: Most people want to be spied on.

          I even dance naked in front of my unsecured security cameras with whipped cream on my nipples.

          You really should take the cheese spread off first.

        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          Why hide anything? Hell I broadcast a weekend-regular live porn broadcast.

          Of course, I'm fucking my husband, which stops most of you (well, 60% of you, by site statistics) but hey, it gives me more play money (literally, in every sense of the word given our government.)

          • Are you claiming that your husband is 40% of the members of this site which is why 60% of us are stopped from participating in the aforementioned activity?

        • "whipped cream on my nipples." So not fully naked then. Stop hiding.

      • by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Monday August 28, 2017 @02:17PM (#55098713)

        They're got nothing to hide and it makes everything that happens to them more relevant and personalized. What's wrong with that? (shrug)

        Having something to hide doesn't enter into it (and that's a stupid argument any, since everyone has something to hide).

        In terms of restaurants, though, if the restaurant is even halfway decent and you're a regular, you will get relevant and personalized service without the spying. It's called personally knowing your customers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        >They're got nothing to hide

        Nobody has nothing to hide. Nobody. I don't believe that your medical records should be available to anyone but your doctor or other medical professionals bound by patient confidentiality with a need to know.

        Moreover, that's not really the point. Large data sets have immense power as has been proven recently. Just metadata can draw a detailed picture of your life, actual raw hard data is considerably more dangerous.

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        "Most people want to be spied on."

        No, they don't. They just don't KNOW, which is the whole point behind Podesta's "We purposefully created an ignorant populace" part of the leaked e-mails which you obviously refused to read and fucking comprehend so that you are aware of the situation we are in.

      • Well, I have no problem with being spied upon--as long as I benefit from it.

        In the above example, if I'm paying good money to go to such-and-such restaurant and I love duck, it might be worthwhile for the restaurant to actually have duck that night. So I have no problem with the restaurant keeping track of what I order when I come in--it ensures that they might have something I enjoy.

        On the other hand, the restaurant sells that information to my insurance company which looks over what I eat and decides tha

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2017 @02:04PM (#55098615)

      No shit ... my favorite restaurant is a little local place where the chef/owner is in his presentation kitchen and looking out and waving to his regular customers and always willing to make a one-off dish ... the head waitress has worked in the industry for years (many with this chef), and also knows the regulars by name as well as what they like. And even the people who she doesn't know by name still get the same attentive service.

      When we go there, we graze our way through a 4-5 course meal and a generous amount of drinks since we're walking anyway.

      Almost without exception (not that they need to) they'll comp us a couple of things, because they like their regulars and by the time we've had a 2+ hour meal, they've more than made money on our visit.

      When I dine out, I pay in cash because the wife and I put money into the dining out kitty and spend from that. I've heard of places saying they won't accept cash, and they just summarily lose my business.

      I simply won't allow a restaurant to gather digital analytics on me. The place which knows me by name, knows my drink and food preferences, and will happily tweak a menu item for me? That place doesn't need analytics, and wins my business the old fashioned way ... by bloody well earning it and giving me a dining experience which is awesome from start to end.

      A restaurant who is going to try to tie me to analytics with some asshole company who wants to track me through the real and digital world? That place will simply never get my business.

      Even less fancy restaurants are more than capable of having competent wait staff who don't leave people sitting with empty drinks and can remember people's tastes. Hell, I know pizza places where the wait staff still all know us by sight and remember our drink orders ... because that's part of the job.

      If your wait staff is that bad ... this is a management problem, not a data problem.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A restaurant who is going to try to tie me to analytics with some asshole company who wants to track me through the real and digital world? That place will simply never get my business.

        Mine either. But you know what? It doesn't matter, because we are outnumbered a hundred thousand to one in the marketplace. It will happen whether you and I like it or not.
         

      • If you traveled though, couldn't you see the appeal of having new-to-you restaurants deliver a similarly awesome dining experience, if they wanted to?

      • by Falos ( 2905315 ) on Monday August 28, 2017 @03:54PM (#55099453)

        They're not interested in waiters who leave people with empty drinks.

        They're interested in grilling waiters who don't upsell enough alcohol.

        Even if it's a guy/gal who has a natural talent for attracting clientele and had increased your business - or any other number of useful traits, which don't show up on a spreadsheet and therefore s/he's going to be "reviewed" onto the chopping block.

        Metrics are usually genuine; the conclusions attached to them are usually voodoo.

    • You know which chains are in on this.

      Crapplebees, Chili's, Outback, Olive Garden, Red Lobster etc. Mediocre, at best, on their best day.

      They are looking for success like the 'Happy meal' was. By providing a five cent toy, they drag the whole family in and feed them _shit_. Because the snot monkey makes the decisions.

      There are no options vs buying a car made by a large international corporation. I don't understand why anybody gets food directly (Cisco notwithstanding) from a crappy corporate restauran

      • I doubt these chains would be willing to spend the money on data mining. They can barely operate their restaurants, they have no budget for high-tech anything.

      • There are no options vs buying a car made by a large international corporation. I don't understand why anybody gets food directly (Cisco notwithstanding) from a crappy corporate restaurant chain. They add no value, specialize in making food just barely good enough, you don't send it back.

        Because not everybody feels the same way as you do. I would probably FAR more enjoy going to several of the ones you mentioned, rather than I suspect what you like - some snooty ridiculously priced place.... even if someon

        • Try a good local ethnic family restaurant. Cheaper and _much_ better than the shit chains.

          The franchise fees come right off the top. Perhaps they could hire competent cooks or even a chef if they weren't paying 10%+ to corporate to advertise the shit food and tell them exactly how to cook it.

          The simple fact is that corporate restaurants set menus and recipes nationally. They don't hire cooks that know to taste the food and adjust for today's ingredients. Just for example: No two batches of tomatoes sau

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "I'd rather eat at restaurants that were competently managed over restaurants that rely on spying on their customers in order to avoid having to be competently managed."

      You obviously never worked food service. If we don't watch you, how the fuck are we supposed to know when your glass needs to be refilled? If you come often enough, should we not know (excepting a new person hired between your last visit and this one) your fucking drink of choice?

      Your very presence is fucking information. This is nothing new

      • I want a restaurant to pay its employees enough so that they stay around long enough to recognize me and know what beer I want, not to store my preferences in a machine oh and hey by the way let's just sell that data up the river, eh? I dine with cash so I'm not particularly vulnerable to this kind of data collection, but I do find the whole idea offensive. Hence, cash.

      • You obviously never worked food service. If we don't watch you, how the fuck are we supposed to know when your glass needs to be refilled?

        I have worked a LOT of food service. I'm not talking about paying attention to, and getting to know, customers. Of course restaurant staff should be doing that -- that's not spying. I'm talking about sending data about those customers off to Big Data services. That's spying.

        Wake up, millennial child.

        You make fascinating, and laughably incorrect, assumptions.

  • Are the other dining guests too noisy? Is there enough parking? Is the surrounding area safe?

    Is the food served fresh? UK has a TV show with a famous chef helping diners solve their customer problems. Once place cooked everything fresh to perfection, then put in a deep freeze to last the whole week. Food was served half defrosted, or completely mushy.

  • Businesses adopting data mining practices

    The rest of the news from 2006 will be forthcoming shortly
  • Rabbit Season!

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday August 28, 2017 @01:59PM (#55098585)

    "How did you know I wanted a medium rare filet? I haven't even ordered yet."

    "It was easy sir. Our sewer system is routed through the kitchen where we perform mass spectometry on your waste matter. Out of your last 73.4 feces samples you've provided, we calculated an 89.27% preference for medium rare filets on Tuesday nights before 8PM, especially after you've had sex in the missionary position."

    • by HBI ( 604924 )

      Poor choice of steak. Low fat content means less taste. Go for a ribeye, rare, for more steaky goodness.

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
        Even a medium/medium rare piece of a really good sirloin works. Plenty of flavor, can be about as tender as a medium-well filet, and about half to 2/3 the price.
  • Offering good food, pleasant service and a nice atmosphere at a reasonable price.

    If I have to go to any of these restaurants (probably in a group where I have no input) I wouldn't be paying in anything other than cash.

    If they're data mining they're probably not bothering to fix the things that are really wrong...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'll just pay with cash everywhere. I'll turn my nose up at restaurants that don't accept cash. If none of them accept cash then none of them get my business and I just cook my own means 100% of the time. I pay with cash at the grocery store so good luck tracking that. You datamining faggots and your faggot privcay invasion can go fuck yourselves sideways with an AIDS-and-Zika infested chainsaw, we're sick to death of your shit.
    • What is all this faux anger about how you will deal with a restaurant that doesn't accept cash? I have never been in a restaurant or store (grocery, furniture, bike, book, adult) or garage or anything that didn't accept cash. I haven't tried cash at a hotel for a couple of decades so I'm not sure about them.

      Where are you people at that you have lots of small retail outlets refusing to take cash?

  • Code that.

    Have cash. Will pay where I want to, eat where I want to, and if you're "too full" there's another better restaurant on the next block.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday August 28, 2017 @02:22PM (#55098749)
    Because real wages are in the toilet and folks are too busy paying student loans and rent to eat out. Data's not going to fix that. Unions and left wing politics in education funding and housing development might.
    • Left-wing politics won't fix anything. Government housing projects (you know those things people refer to as "the projects" in such an endearing manner) has been an incredible disaster and rent control is something that pretty much every economist agrees is a terrible idea [nytimes.com].

      Left-wing politics has good intentions, but their implementations of those intentions often have the opposite effects. It's the same thing with post-secondary education where subsidizing it has driven up costs and all manner of rules a
      • "according to the tech wizards who are determined to jolt the restaurant industry out of its current slump." From the article synopsis, so which is it, are they bounced back or in a slump?
      • until Reagan pulled the funding for the follow up programs to give those people jobs. Move a bunch of people to the city, stuff 'em in a building and give them no work and no future and outsource their jobs and everything goes to hell. Who knew?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Where are the chairs with built in anal probes? It allows to monitor the customers digestive track and, as a bonus, it makes sure the kids do not run through the restaurant.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday August 28, 2017 @03:17PM (#55099193)

    Restaurants that serve good food and understand their customers and control costs and are in a sensible location will do fine. Restaurants that ignore these realities do poorly. Restaurants that chase the latest fad tend to die when the fad does. Running a restaurant in the best of times is a complicated, demanding, and low margin business. It's easy to get into but few last more than a year or two. Have food that people really like, cook and serve it competently, find a good location, and don't be stupid when it comes to costs.

    Data mining will NEVER be a savior for a poorly run restaurant. People might try your place once but they aren't going to come back if they don't like the experience. At best it might help some chains identify poor performers and to compare between stores but to be frank, if the owner/chef of the restaurant doesn't already know this then they are pretty bad at their job.

    • Thinking about the places we go to regularly, I can't imagine any of them data-mine. Why? Because they ask. And if the answer isn't, "That was awesome!", they try to make it right. One did an awesome whitefish cake patty. I found a single pinbone in it. Pointed it out politely, and said that it wasn't a big deal, but I wanted the cooks to know. Comped. Another we had a server who was new and bad. The shift boss that I knew well came over to say hi, and I said that she was not very good. Just wanted her to k

      • Thinking about the places we go to regularly, I can't imagine any of them data-mine. Why? Because they ask.

        The reason is that it probably makes little sense financially. Data mining requires a large data set and unless you are a large chain most restaurants simply don't generate enough data to make the cost of getting it worth the bother. Their POS system captures plenty if it is reasonably modern and they should be having regular staff meetings to go over what happened each day. Data mining for a small local restaurant is like hunting sparrows with a howitzer. It's overkill and expensive overkill at that.

  • by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Monday August 28, 2017 @03:19PM (#55099213)
    Partially because of wait times, which, at times is the FAULT of the public. Playing with their phones instead of looking at the menu, playing with their phones instead of EATING, taking selfies at the table, taking photos of their food. On the OTHER side...food prices are too high, portions are too small, people don't want to wait for poor service, people don't want to wait for the food. Our society has become accustomed to INSTANT everything. They don't want to wait for anything. I don't like putting up with rude people that can't put their stupid phones down WHILE EATING. It's just rude to the ones you are with, rude to the staff that has to wait for you to PUT THE PHONE DOWN. Manners have gone out the window, as has respect. For what places charge for dinner, I'd expect GREAT food & service. I have one or two places I frequent. NON chain stores, and, if you saw the outside of the buildings, you'd say to yourself there is NO WAY I'd go in there! The staff is VERY friendly, will come to your table just to chat, if they aren't busy, the food is great, price is right, and portions are acceptable. I think the NON chains, most of the time, have better food and experience.
  • "Data mining market so saturated that startups and established companies are now pursuing even the restaurant industry"

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Monday August 28, 2017 @08:13PM (#55100783)

    As in Patrick McGoohan's The Prisonner: "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered". That kind of innovation will drive me away from restaurant that use it.

  • Data Mining only improves product not the service. Restaurant is about the mix of both.

    It doesn't take a genius to see that a dirt cheap waiter/ waitress forgetting an order, too busy with their phone, or impatient with serving their customers result in fewer customers to the restaurant. Mining the customers does nothing to improve the most common underline problem.

    If they want data from customers, they are already too late as they should have known their customers before starting the restaurant. Let's use

  • You: "Hi, I'd like to make a dinner reservation for Friday at 6:30."

    Restaurant employee: "Sure, let me pull up the calendar." (The computer identifies you by caller ID and notes you don't drink alcohol, so it's a bad idea to let you take up a table at their busiest time.) "I'm sorry, we don't have any free seats then. We do have openings at 5:30, or after 7."

    No possibilities for abuse here, none at all.

  • And yet again the problems that are unique to massively large metropolitan areas that have a lot of rich people living there is extrapolated to become an "everywhere in the USA" issue when it isn't. Maybe next they can tell us about how data analytics can help with caviar, which just simply must be a problem every restaurant in the country has to deal with.

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