How to be a good restaurant host for your guests and guest data

Data makes the digital world go around. Businesses in nearly all industries use customer insights to understand what their customers want, how they interact with their brands, and use those findings to deliver better, more personalised experiences.

While data like this provides operators the chance to get to know their diners and deliver personalised experiences that match their preferences, from drink orders to data sharing preferences, there are some important things to consider when it comes to data privacy.

Understanding spam regulations

Electronic messaging in Australia is regulated by the Spam Act (2003). Generally, the act prohibits “unsolicited electronic messages” from being sent without an individual’s consent. Even emails that may seem to be transactional in nature, such as sending news about upcoming menus, happy hours, events or obtaining feedback from diners, can be seen as marketing.

The penalties for violating the Spam Act can be steep. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has been actively cracking down on spam. Some well-known Australian brands have been fined more than $500,000 for sending spam texts and emails without consumer’s permission.

The OpenTable approach

At OpenTable we honour user choice. OpenTable is dedicated to securing and protecting guest data, respecting guest choices when sharing data, and ensuring restaurants that receive data can use it in accordance with the Spam Act (2003) without needing further consent.

We pass the diner email by default so the restaurant can contact the diner if they have an interesting menu to offer or an event that the diner would appreciate, unless the diner indicates they do not want us to do so. If a diner tells us not to pass their email, then we will honour that choice, both to be a good host of their data and to comply with local regulations to honour user choices. This practice ensures we protect the individual rights of our diners and helps reduce regulatory risk for OpenTable and our restaurant partners.

On the occasion that diners ask us not to pass on their email, restaurants can tap into OpenTable’s Direct Messaging feature to communicate. The feature can be initiated by both restaurants and diners to ask questions about their bookings before their visit, discuss a particular dining preference or help them mark a special occasion. It can also be used to ping guests after their meal if they left a scarf behind or provide some follow-up information about the wine they enjoyed. This feature is available for all online bookings, independently of email opt-in preferences, once a restaurant has activated the feature.

Respecting customers’ privacy

This approach to data privacy is not only about protecting diners. It’s also about protecting restaurants.

Building trust with diners is up to restaurants too. Every customer has a right to privacy, and it is the responsibility of businesses to respect customers’ wishes and act as good hosts of the data that is entrusted to them.

OpenTable asks that all restaurants, partners and members of the industry join us in committing to make every effort to honour user data and respect customer privacy.

If the hospitality industry gets data protection right, guests will feel more comfortable sharing their data so the restaurants they love can use it to deliver even better, more personalised hospitality experiences.

Once your guests consent to sharing their email address, restaurants can use our relationship management tools to automate your communications, personalise your guest experiences, and send the right message to the right guests at the right time.

Learn more about our approach for Data & security.

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