“Reverse Yelp”: Why Restaurants are Rating Customers and Sharing Intelligence

Thanks to online reservation systems like Dimmi’s ResDiary, restaurants can “reverse yelp” (phrase coined by BusinessWeek) by codifying and rating diners in novel ways. Typically, restaurants share basic information about customers’ food and wine preferences, seating preferences and allergies. The Dimmi system goes further, according to Good Food, by allowing restaurants to code for “loud talkers, frequent no-shows or PIAs — pain-in-the-a** customers with excessive demands,” and how well people tipped.

“A customer that is rude, obnoxious, complains and doesn’t tip should be noted. A diner who appreciates the food concept, respects the staff, dines often and leaves tips should be given the better tables and taken care of more,” says Stevan Premutico, CEO of Dimmi.  “Diners will behave better, tip better, treat staff better. It will help improve the industry and may help the diner get that all important upgrade next time.”

Two-Way Conversations

We often talk about how power is moving to the individual, so that consumers can have unprecedented two-way conversations with corporations and institutions. Bad customer service experiences, for instance, are frequently recorded on Yelp. Conversation has now become so two-way that companies can rate and evaluate consumers as well. On one hand, this is a matter of basic economics: Dimmi allows a restaurant to make more money by giving it enough data so it can treat more lucrative customers better. But it also allows companies to hold customers accountable to principled behavior, to indicate if someone is “rude, obnoxious, complains and doesn’t tip.” The customer may not always be right; the mission and values that uphold an enterprise come first, and no one, not even the sacred customer, is above them. In short, Dimmi allows restaurants to both generate more profit and to be more principled.Feedback

Dov has written about this before when he profiled REI’s decision to limit its “no-questions-asked, no time limit” return policy to one year, because customers were returning decades-old products, some of which REI never even sold in the first place. Dov wrote then that “in our transparent, hyperconnected world, sellers can be—and should be—much more intentional about the behaviors they seek from buyers.” What corporate character is truly about, he wrote, is “what is necessary to create and sustain unique customer experiences with customers who share the company’s values.”


What is even more noteworthy about Dimmi is that it is a system in which restaurants (read: competitors) share information with each other. By not hoarding but sharing information transparently about customer habits, restaurants are making it impossible for a customer to treat the wait staff rudely or kindly in one restaurant and for others not to know. Customers will build reputations that follow them around, a phenomenon which, in the end, benefits all restaurants, even those who are competing against each other. We have written about this unconventional form of “competing” before when we analyzed Tesla’s decision to not enforce its patents:

The word ‘competition,’ comes from the Latin word, ‘competere,’ which means to ‘strive together.’ The idea is that by striving against one another, companies sharpen each other and get better at what they do (think of how Mo Farah and Galen Rupp trained together under the same coach and won gold and silver in the Olympics 10k).

Just as Farah and Rupp shared running tips and habits as they trained together so that they could help each other get better, so restaurants are sharing their knowledge about customers so that each restaurant can improve its customer experience. The restaurant industry as a whole is not only able to be smarter about how it generates revenue, but it is able to collectively hold its customer base accountable to the right behaviors.

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