Surveillance is the new blooming onion at Outback Steakhouse

The friendly surface-level rationale behind any mass data collection via surveillance is improved efficiency through metrics. With the right amount of the data, and the right analysts working through it, you can optimize pretty much any process. From a business perspective, this could potentially present new ways to work smarter, instead of working harder — increasing profits and productivity through better decision-making, which ultimately makes everyone happier.

In that context, it makes sense why a chain restaurant like Outback Steakhouse might be interested in implementing its own mini surveillance state. So far it's only limited to a single franchise in Portland, Oregon which is operated by Evergreen Restaurant Group. But Evergreen also owns some 40-other Outback Steakhouses throughout the country, which means this small pilot program could seen be expanded, if the suits think the metrics work out in their favor.

This particular surveillance experiment relies on facial recognition and other technology provided by Presto Vision, who claims to offer "real-time actionable restaurant insights." From Wired:

According to Presto CEO Rajat Suri, Presto Vision takes advantage of preexisting surveillance cameras that many restaurants already have installed. The system uses machine learning to analyze footage of restaurant staff at work and interacting with guests. It aims to track metrics like how often a server tends to their tables or how long it takes for food to come out. At the end of a shift, managers receive an email of the compiled statistics, which they can then use to identify problems and infer whether servers, hostesses, and kitchen staff are adequately doing their jobs.

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Nashville restaurant makes it easy for diners to buy their cooks a round of beer

My dear friend Jenny Slater was in Nashville Wednesday. She dined with her new work team at SILO, an upscale eatery in the Germantown neighborhood.

That's where they spotted an unusual offering on the dessert menu. They saw that, for an additional $20, they could "buy the cooks a round of beer."

She wrote me, "I am lucky enough to eat in a lot of different restaurants, and this was a new one for me! (And yes, the food was amazing, and yes, we kicked in the $20!)"

I had to know if the restaurant acknowledged it in some way. I mean, adding an extra $20 to your bill is not exactly chump change.

We were chatting in real time, so at first she said there was "no acknowledgement yet, but they're busy." Then, a few minutes later, she exclaimed, "They cheered loudly!" and then "We're seated at a big table near the open kitchen, so it was a nice little celebratory moment!"

I did a little digging around and apparently this is a thing. A 2011 article in Kansas City's alt-newspaper The Pitch describes the practice:

Matt Hyde, the manager and co-owner of 715, says his business partner, executive chef Michael Beard, got the idea to add the option of tipping the kitchen crew with beer from the Publican in Chicago -- one of the several restaurants around the country featured in yesterday's article by Clarissa Cruz on this very subject.

There are some rules to the practice at 715, Hyde says: "The kitchen crew isn't allowed to drink while they're working, of course," he says, "and we have a policy that they can only have two beers after their shift in the restaurant.

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