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How To Make Sure A Slip Reading ‘NO BRD RM TMP SP H2O BOOTH NO WNDW’ Pops Up Every Time You Walk Into Oceana

This is how your power broker lunch spot VIP customer service sausage gets made.
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There’s more to running a restaurant than knowing which hedge-fund managers hate each other in a given week and keeping them as far apart from one another as possible. Indeed, just to get to the point where circa-2012 Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn would be willing to be in the same room as one another requires all manner of buttering up.

Mr. O’Connor, president of Douglas Elliman Property Management, is escorted to his guests at a banquette one row away from the windows to get natural light without distractions from passersby. When it’s time to order, the sommelier discreetly recommends wines that fall within his price range, with no mention of price. To clients, “it’s obvious that they are treating me well,” says Mr. O’Connor, 59, who lives in Yonkers, N.Y...Glenn Tilton, 67, former chairman of United Airlines, says his guests at Chicago Cut Steakhouse, his favorite Windy City spot, are often ushered to the table well before he arrives. He says he has noticed how, once the group is at the table, a manager will greet the guests first and hand them a business card. Mr. Tilton says this approach is less awkward than when managers pop in for a quick personal chat without acknowledging his guests...Servers, when taking the meal order, will ask guests if they want bread with their meal, since Mr. Tilton doesn’t eat bread and prefers not to have it on the table. For breakfast, coffee for his guests arrives before his cappuccino, which he prefers to get after his steak and eggs arrive.

Unlike the former rule against seating Messrs. Ackman and Icahn within martini-throwing distance, all of the above has been meticulously researched and recorded because, of course, there’s an app (actually, apps) for that.

“The first thing we do is Google people,” says Dean Tsakanikas, director of hospitality at LDV Hospitality, which runs restaurants including Scarpetta, American Cut and Dolce Italian in cities including Miami, New York and Beverly Hills, Calif. A restaurant often uses SevenRooms, an online database that pulls photos from Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, to help employees in the dining room spot an arriving VIP, recall their food preferences and track the number of times they’ve dined with the restaurant in the past. Details on file about important guests can be as specific as the one who prefers sparkling water at room temperature...The restaurant uses OpenTable, an online reservation system, to keep notes on individual diners, which the staff reviews before the start of the shift. (Portions of OpenTable are visible only to restaurant staff.) After months of observation, the restaurant now stocks a condiment holder of four special hot sauces for one client and keeps the sugar substitute Stevia for another’s coffee.

Restaurants’ Secrets to Keeping VIP Diners Happy [WSJ]


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