April 11, 2014— -- Most people find out about a restaurant by Googling them -- but many don’t know that restaurants are Googling you, too.
Maîtres d's in top New York City restaurants are combing the reservation books, and then typing names into Facebook, LinkedIn and Google to find out birthdays, anniversaries and more.
A Grub Street article this week pointed out how Eleven Madison Park goes as far as pairing diners from a certain state with a server from the same state if possible -- all using information they dug up online.
It’s enough to make non-celebrity diners wonder if they, too, should start using aliases like a food critic would.
But Eleven Madison Park isn’t the only eatery doing its research.
At Daniel, chef Daniel Bolud’s ritzy French restaurant in Manhattan, a worker who takes reservations told ABCNews.com they use Google every day to look up that night’s diners.
"Just to see if they’re in the business, maybe if they’re a chef or work in the industry,” the employee said.
Jay Poblador, general manager at Brooklyn’s The Elm, another French eatery where main dishes cost upwards of $30, said searching for diners on LinkedIn is common practice.
"We definitely want to know who’s in the dining room,” he said. “It feels very old-school when you plot out seating and there are some occasions when you can’t have certain tables sitting next to each other.
"For example, we have lots of chefs or industry people who have had volatile relationships in the past, so we try to keep them as far away as possible.”
An employee at Babbo, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's flagship restaurant, also said Google is a great tool to find out if a diner is an entertainer or TV personality. That way the maître d knows to put him or her in a private area and provide top service, she added.
But a manager at Sarabeth’s, also in Manhattan, warned of the downside to looking up customers online.
"It's a fine line because it’s hit and miss with which clientele will like that you know something about them without them telling you,” said Dan Martin.
He admitted some servers might take it upon themselves to Google their tables, but said he would never recommend it to his staff.
"I wouldn’t encourage a waiter to Google a customer and say, ‘Hey, I heard you were working on this project.’ I wouldn’t want that," Martin said.