Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Yet think about how long Amazon has been suggesting your next purchases or Netflix has been trying (sometimes laughably) to anticipate what you might want to watch. Restaurants were bound to follow suit. “It’s like what hotels or airlines or credit cards have been doing for decades,” says Winston Lord, cofounder of the Washington, D.C.–based hospitality-data collection company Venga. “If you’re fortunate enough to go to a Ritz-Carlton and ask for a down pillow, guess what’s waiting [on your bed] anytime you travel to another Ritz-Carlton around the world?”

The 1998 launch of the San Francisco–based online reservation system OpenTable changed not only the way people book reservations but also how restaurants record, store, and use information about those people. Now more challengers to OpenTable are emerging—Kokonas’s cloud- and ticket-based Tock, for one—and companies such as Venga are providing additional ways for restaurateurs to collect and process data on diners.

Lettuce receives diners’ purchase history information from Venga, which consolidates and analyzes customer data from OpenTable. Lord says Venga has tripled its business over the past two years and now serves more than 1,000 restaurants worldwide, including more than 100 in Chicago. When personal details are viewable on social media, Lord says, “we can certainly grab that information and tie it back and build those guest profiles,” ultimately linking customers’ social media accounts and purchase histories “at a very high level.”

Venga might report that a guest enjoyed a $75 Pinot Noir on a previous visit. The next time that person comes in, the restaurant—or a sister establishment—could use that information to offer Pinot Noirs in that price range. Knowing a guest’s preferences might allow a server to say, “I know you like Nantucket scallops, and they came in today,” explains Melman. “It’s just a great point of service to give someone something they prefer.”


Read full article at Chicago Magazine