Eleven Madison Park Modernized Old-School Service by Googling All Guests
J Thoendell stashed this in Food
At 3:30 p.m., in the back office of Eleven Madison Park, maître d' Justin Roller is Googling the names of every guest who will come in that night. It's a well-known tactic of the restaurant, an effort to be as familiar as possible with the diners. Anyone can Google some names and faces, but Roller is going deeper. "I'm looking for chef's whites and wine glasses," he says. A shot of a guest wearing whites means a chef is probably coming to dinner. Wine glasses signify a potential sommelier (or at least a wine geek). This is just the beginning. If, for example, Roller discovers it's a couple's anniversary, he'll then try to figure out which anniversary. If it's a birthday, he'll welcome a guest, as they walk in the door, with a "Happy Birthday." (Or, if it seems to Roller that a guest prefers to keep a low profile, "I'll let them introduce themselves to me," he says.) Even small details are useful: "If I find out a guest is from Montana, and I know we have a server from there, we'll put them together." Same goes for guests who own jazz clubs, who can be paired with a sommelier that happens to be into jazz. In other words, before customers even step through the door, the restaurant's staff has a pretty good idea of the things it can do to specifically blow their minds.