Big Data Dining: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Big Data Dining: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Mark Caro | Chicago Magazine | November 13th, 2017

They find your photo online and study it so they’ll recognize you when you walk in the door. They Google you and check you out on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram to see what you do for a living and to take note of your interests and passions. You’re a Lenny Kravitz fan? Hey, they have a server who loves “Fly Away,” so she’ll be working your table. Maybe you’ll hit it off.

Once you arrive, you feed the restaurant more data. Remember that time you said the fish was too salty? That was duly noted, both by the chef, who double-checked the preparation, and by the front-of-house staff, who added a possible salt sensitivity to your profile. Remember when you ordered the wine pairings, and by the time the Tokay arrived, you were teetering into your banquette neighbor? You may be receiving lighter pours on your next visit, not that anyone would be so uncouth as to point this out to you.

If you went to Grace, Curtis Duffy’s three-Michelin-star temple on Randolph Street, and complained loudly that the restaurant doesn’t offer Burgundy or Bordeaux wines, you might be labeled a PP, or “potential problem.” If you didn’t understand the concept of the tasting menu and insisted on ordering a steak, you may have earned the designation FOW, “fish out of water.” If you watched For Grace, the documentary about Duffy, and now want to meet the celebrity chef, you’re dubbed a Twizzler (Duffy’s favorite candy). If you’re so lucky as to be a celebrity yourself, Grace may refer to you as a TD (for Tony Danza; partner and general manager Michael Muser admits this term “makes no sense,” but he hates “VIP”). More of an Alinea habitué? Maybe the restaurant will have you down as a FOTAG (friend of the Alinea Group) or a FONK (friend of Nick Kokonas, the company’s co-owner) or a FOGA (friend of Grant Achatz, the chef). “Then we have the PON, ‘person of note,’ ” Kokonas says. “You’re not a regular necessarily. It’s just like, Hey, you might be an artist or this or that.” DineAmic Group (Bar Siena, Prime & Provisions, Public House) uses PPX, for personne particulièrement extraordinaire.

That everyone wants to be treated as a VIP, or whatever you want to call it, is a given. But in this era of social media and big data, many restaurants are no longer lavishing extra attention and scrutiny just on famous people, big spenders, and food critics. Now—assuming you’re the one making the reservation—they’re digging up all they can on you.


Here Are Chicago’s Top-Earning Restaurants

Here Are Chicago’s Top-Earning Restaurants

David Matthews | DNAinfo Chicago | October 30th, 2017

DOWNTOWN — Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse grossed nearly $25 million last year, tops among all Chicago restaurants, according to a new study.

The venerable Rush Street steakhouse is one of nine Chicago restaurants on Restaurant Business’ list of the top 100 independent restaurants in the country.

That’s down from 10 in 2015, when the Greek Islands restaurant at 200 S. Halsted St. clocked in at No. 99 in the country with $12.2 million in gross sales.

Gibsons, at 1028 N. Rush St., has led all Chicago restaurants in gross sales since at least 2014, according to the report. Primehouse, the steakhouse in the James Hotel at 616 N. Rush, led all Chicago restaurants that made the high-grossing list, with an average check of $98 last year.

Quartino Ristorante, 626 N. State St., led all Chicago restaurants on the list with nearly 440,000 meals served last year.

Restaurant Business said it calculated its totals using surveys or estimates based on “public information, similar concepts and other factors.”

The rankings apply only to non-chain restaurants with no more than five locations.

Here’s the list:

•No. 1 (10 nationally): Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, 1028 N. Rush St.

Gross sales: $24.7 million

Average check: $75

Meals served: 363,301

•No. 2 (20): Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, 60 E. Grand Ave.

Gross sales: $21.2 million (estimate)

Average check: $80 (estimate)

Meals served: 265,000


UberEats Nudges Operators Toward Virtual Restaurants

UberEats Nudges Operators Toward Virtual Restaurants

Lisa Jennings | Restaurant Hospitality | October 19, 2017

Chicago pizzeria owner Simon Mikhail had been working with UberEats for about a year when the third-party delivery service approached him last year with a proposition.

UberEats users in his neighborhood had been searching for “chicken” through the delivery service’s app, they told him, but there wasn’t much available. Was Mikhail interested in filling that void?

“I said, ‘I can do fried chicken. I have a fryer,’” said Mikhail, owner of Si-Pie Pizzeria.

But rather than adding fried chicken his pizzeria’s menu, UberEats worked with Mikhail to create a new concept, dubbed Si’s Chicken Kitchen, which was available only through the app as a virtual restaurant without any brick-and-mortar presence.

The virtual Si’s Chicken Kitchen has been open for about a year and averages about $1,000 per week in sales of fried chicken, chicken tenders and chicken pizza — all made in the pizzeria’s kitchen. Sales have already surpassed delivery sales of the original pizza concept.

“I’m selling more fried chicken than pizza for delivery,” Mikhail said.

With a second pizzeria location in the works, Mikhail also plans to do separate virtual concepts from that kitchen too, including a possible delivery-only burger restaurant.

The notion of virtual restaurants isn’t new. As delivery has gained momentum, a growing number of operators have launched delivery-only concepts, and not just with UberEats.

But the fact that UberEats is looking to use its data to identify locations where such virtual concepts would work brings a new weapon to the competitive delivery battlefield.