1. Simon Price

    Simon Price Member

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    In what ways do restaurants keep records of their customers?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Simon Price, Mar 13, 2018.

    So, the central plot of my story revolves around two characters with special powers, one who's a serial killer murdering people for initially unknown reasons, and the protagonist, who's trying to catch and stop him because he knows only somebody like him could be pulling off these murders but for masquerade purposes regarding the existence of people like him he can't go to the police about it.

    What the protagonist doesn't realize until later is that the serial killer is actually trying to hunt him down. During the initial anonymous "meeting" between all 24 of these supers, another one of the supers let slip a tiny bit of information about the protagonist's location that it turns out the serial killer super has been using to try and track him down.

    Upon brainstorming what this information could be, I initially thought it was the third one casually mentioning the restaurant the protagonist was in, a restaurant that both the third member and the protagonist thought was a chain and thus useless information. But it later turns out there's only one of them, and that the third one just gave everyone who cared to connect the dots the protagonist's exact location on the day and time of the meeting. I was thinking that the serial killer super would then head to that restaurant and determine who exactly had been at the restaurant on that day and during the hour of the meeting, and then hunt down every male customer that hour one by one.

    Now this sounded good at first, but it later occurred to me that I have no idea what kinds of records restaurants keep of their orders, and that the only ones that would have a name attached to them would probably be the credit card users. Am I mistaken? Is there anything I should know about restaurants that would let me salvage this? Right now I'm debating what kind of feature I could add to this restaurant that would make it feasible for the killer to get a list of names (or at least faces) of the people who ate there at a certain time and day without drawing too much attention to the fact so that it's believable that the protagonist wouldn't suspect the killer is after him until he discovers that the place he ate at wasn't a chain.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Credit card evidence would be about the only hard evidence in play. Other than that the servers would likely know the regulars, but then you've got to write some flavor of interrogation/questioning of the servers, and that's kinda' shaky. If I were a server or manager in said restaurant, especially a mom & pop, I would escort you out. There's no reason other than at gunpoint for me to give over any of this customer-related information, and every reason not to. If the super is to get this info, it would certainly have to be via subterfuge, and still, there's not going to be much there.
     
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  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor Community Volunteer

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    There are loads of sites now where you can book tables online and would have to give your name as well as the time of the booking, which is then sent to the restaurant and stored in their records. I don't know about other countries but here, OpenTable is the most popular. Individual chains often have the same facility on their websites.

    Of course, that would only keep records of people who had booked.

    I think the only places where *every* customer would have their name and time recorded are the super exclusive restaurants where you can't get a table by walk-in and have to book several months in advance.
     
  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

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    Cameras would be your best bet. I've never worked in a good joint (until now) that doesn't have them, and there are always two or three trained on the bar and front door at all times. Credit cards and reservation systems would obviously only work for those that used either, but there are plenty of reservation-only places in larger cities that would have fairly meticulous records of everyone who enters the building... more or less. I used to do that but it was a smaller place full of people who came in once a week for years.
     
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  5. Simon Price

    Simon Price Member

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    Oooh! Yeah, that definitely sounds like the best bet. How long do they usually keep the footage for?
     
  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

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    Good question.

    I have no idea. A week or two? A month? Forever?
     
  7. Simon Price

    Simon Price Member

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    Good, he'd only need a week at most.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  8. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Losing My Religion

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    Is it something you could tweak to have the info pertain to takeout and delivery orders?

    I ask because in the days before GrubHub, LA Bite, or Amazon Restaurants, I was a delivery customer of a fantastic local Italian place, and they kept meticulous customer records.

    Whenever I called them to order, after I gave my phone number they would immediately ask, "How are you this evening, Ms. Shenanigator? Will you be having the special order penne marinara with grilled chicken and steamed broccoli with no cheese we did for you last time? Or can we bring you something else tonight?" (The pasta with grilled chicken was an off the menu dish the chef made for me when he found out I had food allergies.)

    The amount of stuff they had on file would have been creepy had they not delivered such great customer service. ("It's been a while since you've ordered the lemon cream layer cake. Was it not to your liking last time?") Their records also contained the gate code info for my apartment and my credit card info. They knew what food allergies I have, and the date of my birthday. So someone with bad intentions could absolutely wreak havoc with all that.

    ([sniff] I miss that place...they're no longer in existence except for catering now, sadly, due to skyrocketing rents.)

    ETA: Also, some of my local Mom & Pops places used to have "Birthday Club"s and "Business Card Lunch Drawings" where local business people would drop their business card into a jar to sign up for the restaurant mailing list and there was a monthly prize of a catered lunch so that info would be on file.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
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  9. soupcannon

    soupcannon Active Member

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    Location:
    1. noun; the act or process of locating.
    Is the story set in the present? If so, there are other means at your disposal to determine who eats where.

    Does the restaurant maintain an active online presence in the form of a Facebook page, or Twitter or Instagram account where they may have pictures of the regulars? Has the protagonist ever checked in at the restaurant with something like Foursquare? Ever posted a pic or update about eating at that place? Posted a Yelp review? Savvy internet searchers can look for references to the restaurant online, especially if it's a single, unique location.
     
  10. John Grant

    John Grant Member

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    Restaurants are particularly bad at tracking and staying in touch with their customers. If the customer pays by check, they at least have a physical address. Otherwise, they are limited to communicating with those who register themselves through social media. Maybe that could be a side story, the challenges restaurants face with staying in contact with their customers.
     
  11. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Losing My Religion

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    I would say it depends on the restaurant, and the location. Mom & Pops restaurants in Los Angeles tend to work really, really hard at customer service, because it's so hard for a restaurant to make it there. My locals do all kinds of things to keep in touch with customers, including sending out coupons and takeout menus on a regular basis, informing them of new menu items, and finding other ways to reach out.

    I've never registered my social media with any of them, but when one of my favorite places burned down and rebuilt, the owner called to let me know they'd be reopening in a couple of weeks (I was just an average customer who did takeout now and then, not a big spender.). At the Italian place I mentioned in my post above, when the chef found out I had food allergies, he phoned me personally to ask what I can eat and what I'm allergic to and created a "secret menu" dish to make it easier for me to order (and to make it easier on the kitchen, I'm sure) because I ordered from them every other week. ETA: He literally called me up and said, "We can do better than this" (meaning what I'd ordered to get around my allergies) and figured it out with me on the phone. Who does that? It was awesome. ("Secret" menus are a huge thing in L.A...It's more like "not secret secret".) There's another place where I don't think I've ever payed full price for a meal, because they're so generous with their coupons for delivery customers.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
  12. Simon Price

    Simon Price Member

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    Alright, thanks for the feedback everyone! Based on what I've seen here, I've decided to go with the security camera idea. There's going to be cameras set up, but only near the entrance and ordering area, positioned so that the faces of everyone who orders can be clearly seen. It's one of those setups where you pay first at the counter and then have your order brought to you when it's ready, and there are exits in the dining area too. This way the security camera feed will show when diners arrived but in most cases not when they left. So when the main character stays there for an hour waiting for somebody who left him a note asking to talk to him (who never shows up) and then gets prompted to join the conversation with the other supers, he'll bring up the note asking if the ringleader of this was the one who sent it, and then the ringleader, who didn't send the note, will go "Oh! So that explains it!" and then kinda mumble "Seriously, who the hell just sits in a McFrosty's for an hour?"

    And that's all the information the serial killer needs. He goes there, breaks in, steals the security camera footage, waits for the guy who sent him the invite to show up, rewinds the footage 50 minutes, and then goes backwards killing every male (the protagonist's sex was offhandedly mentioned too) customer he sees on the footage who didn't walk back out the front door until he finds the protagonist.

    Anyone see any problems with this?
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
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