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Want a fine dining experience? Please share your data first

Prathamesh Rakshe, 25, a Pune-based DJ, was shocked when a popular restaurant chain asked him to take a survey to get the next free meal. “I was asked to enter my name, address, phone number (with OTP verification) and date of birth, after which the survey asked a few questions about my eating habits,” he said. declared to indianexpress.com. “Strangely, I even had to enter if I drank alcohol or smoked regularly.”

Welcome to the era of lavish hospitality, where in addition to the menu, you receive a form to also fill in your personal information.

In recent years, customer data has become increasingly valuable to hospitality companies wanting to know everything – from your date of birth to your opinion of how you liked a particular appetizer and your willingness to spend.

Niharika Seth, a 28-year-old Mumbai-based IT professional, had a strange experience while in Goa. She received a text from a restaurant welcoming her to the city. “Although I regularly visit this particular restaurant in Mumbai, how did they know I was traveling?” she wondered.

The data mantra

Restaurant owners say the goal of collecting data is to provide an “unforgettable” dining experience for their customers. The other reason is the Covid pandemic.

“Before the lockdown, we had customer relationship management (CRM) software that told us a lot about our customers’ eating habits, including their name, vehicle number, total number of visits, dish favorite, average money spent, etc.”, says Sandeepraj. Salian, owner of Farmaaish Bar and Restaurant, Pune.

Mumbai-based Juliette and Yazu restaurants regularly collect names and contact details of their guests, as well as their dining habits to make the experience awe-inspiring. “Imagine walking into your favorite restaurant where your favorite table is reserved for you, and the waiter gets the food and drinks you like,” says Atul Chopra, co-owner of Juliette.

Atul Chopra, Gurmeet Arora and Ranbir Nagpal, founders of Juliette and Yazu restaurants.

Going a step further, Maai, a gourmet restaurant in Goa, records the name of its customers’ favorite waiter to ensure that the dining experience is unforgettable for them.

Collecting and analyzing this information allows restaurants to understand exactly what their customers want and also helps them with targeted marketing, with the ultimate goal of increasing sales.

“By recording critical customer information such as contact details, personal information, ordering preferences, etc., we can build a better connection with customers, which in turn drives sales and helps the restaurant grow.” develop. With customer data in hand, we can generate insights and separate customers into different categories, which helps us make data-driven decisions and create better marketing strategies,” says Pawan Shahri, owner of Chrome Hospitality.

The pandemic shift

Restaurant owners believe Covid has a lot to do with transforming data collection behavior. Ranbir Nagpal, co-owner of Juliette and Yazu restaurants admits that after the pandemic, all restaurants made it mandatory to collect customer data for security reasons. “Customers do not hesitate at all to provide their data, unlike in the pre-Covid era,” he says.

However, with the pandemic, attendance has dropped significantly. “..that’s why we moved from CRM software to counter registers. We convert the information into an Excel sheet and send promotional or marketing offers to our regular customers via WhatsApp or SMS,” adds Salian, owner of Farmaaish Bar and Restaurant. He believes restaurants are “at least better than online food aggregators that collect massive amounts of data and have the potential to sell it to other businesses.”

You must beware

Sourajeet Majumder, an independent cybersecurity researcher, says a restaurant’s promotional messages can still be tolerated, but things get tricky when restaurants get involved in data brokers’ shady deals or fall victim to data breaches. “Restaurant data, if sold to third parties such as telemarketing companies, can be misused by them to harass people into buying their goods/services.”

He points out that not all free wifi connections in restaurants are free, “what you trade in for using wifi for half an hour is your personal information.”

Often, restaurants collect this data through surveys and feedback forms that diners voluntarily fill out in exchange for simple discount coupons. “This is where you have to decide if a Rs 50 discount on your next purchase is worth sharing your personal details with a restaurant,” he notes.