Last week's revelation that haute restaurants might be following our every move online unnerved some diners. Come on, guys, we're supposed to be stalking you! We checked in with some top toques at four-star restaurants around town to see what their social-media practices are. Daniel and Jean Georges wouldn't go on the record, but Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin and The Four Seasons' co-owner Julian Niccolini had rather more to say.
Upon hearing that Daniel Humm sent out a tiny burger to a diner who had tweeted about dining at Burger King that day, Ripert gasped, "Really? Wow. Okay. We are much more old-fashioned, I guess." He finds it "amusing — it's cute" but "wouldn't do something like that." He hastily qualified that this difference among eateries is "the beauty of New York, no?" It's not as though Ripert is a technophobe — he's got that Twitter, and no one pronounces "Twitter" like a Frenchman — but he says he uses it more to "share little recipes and observations." He prefers to keep track of diners' preferences in a computer database that pulls up their names when they make reservations, tracking a diner's allergies, her favorite wine, or her preferred part of the restaurant.
As for Niccolini, the famously ebullient Italian announced, "I only keep track of the good customers! The bad ones I do not keep track of! Just joking." Laughing, he went on to credit his memory — "I guess it's called memory lane, you know?" — for how he can so famously greet returning customers by name. Niccolini initially insisted that Google is only good for finding "famous people," and thus it is useless. But, joking aside, he does admit that he will Google you if your "reservation looks suspicious."
Suspicious? "You know, if somebody's running a Ponzi scheme, I want to look it up." When pressed about how he could identify a Ponzi scheme from a reservation name, he said, "Well, you know, if I have some kind of an individual that sounds made-up, or sounds like he's running a Ponzi scheme whose name I read in the paper the day before, of course I'm going to look it up ... I want to make sure you're not going to just walk out without paying the check!"
Ponzi-schemers, take note: The place for you to conduct your "business" meeting is not The Four Seasons.
Search Me [Gourmet Live]
Previously: Stupid Restaurant Tricks: Googling Diners and Rewarding Wine Pushers