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Smile...you're on camera in our dining room!

Many restaurant owners are now using video cameras strategically placed around their establishment in order to watch us eat, chat, move about while inside...When I enter a restaurant I find myself looking around for the cameras, sometimes semi-hidden, sometimes out in the open...so while we're enjoying our stay, 'culinary big brother' is watching. Are you comfortable with this? Should we be told upon entering that you will be filmed while dining or drinking here? Is this spying?

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  1. this does not bother me, cameras are pretty much everywhere nowdays.

    1 Reply
    1. re: swsidejim

      Ditto here. If I am in a public place, I assume I am on camera. It's not spying IMO. And I don't believe they have an obligation to inform more than any other public place does.

    2. Can I ask, what's the purpose? Security? Data collection? To time courses more efficiently? Voyeurism?

      19 Replies
      1. re: Cachetes

        I think it's primarily meant for timing courses. But I can them using it for other purposes as well, especially when it comes to security. There are customers who like to take home "souvenirs" from a restaurant.

        Speaking of cameras, serious eats noted that Ko (a restaurant in NYC) actually banned customers from bringing in cameras and taking pics of the food. It's a very small place, and I can see how it's difficult to take pics discreetly. I'm sure food bloggers are a bit upset by that news.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          "Ko (a restaurant in NYC) actually banned customers from bringing in cameras and taking pics of the food"

          I find that completely ridiculous.

          1. re: PotatoHouse

            If the venue is at all dark, and you are a patron, trying to enjoy your meal, you might not feel that way.

            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              That may be so. I took it that they were trying to protect some proprietary recipe or plating design.

              1. re: PotatoHouse

                I think that some are, but others are probably reacting to flashes in darker venues, and patron complaints.

                In another thread, on food photography in restaurants, I mentioned one couple, who asked us to move from our table, so that their photographs would not include any patrons in the background - yeah, right, like THAT is going to happen, especially when I am paying big $'s for my meal, and they are already intruding on my enjoyment.

                What all of the various motivations are, I cannot tell, but let's just say that, if flash is being used, I am not a fan.

                Hunt

        2. re: Cachetes

          My guess is mostly for security and liability issues.

          1. re: Janet from Richmond

            I think you're right about liability. With so many scams of people finding "foreign objects" in their food, or otherwise being "injured", many places have taken to protecting themselves with surveillance video.

            1. re: hannaone

              Interesting news. I for one would like to be warned when I enter such a dining establishment.

              1. re: dolores

                As part of another liability issue, most places that have surveillance video also have a sign somewhere on the premises stating that.
                There have been some lawsuits for "invasion of privacy" or some such when a restaurant has taken photos/video of, ummmm - clandestine romantic rendezvous of couples (married or otherwise attached to someone other than whom they are meeting).

                1. re: hannaone

                  Have the plantiffs won any of these lawsuits. My opinion is if you have having an affair, it's probably best not to meet the other party in a public place.

                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                    Wow, good point. I didn't like the Big Brother aspect of it, but you brought up another interesting issue.

                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                      If one has to be totally discreet, then they are likely out of luck - maybe in a cheap motel, by the docks, in a far-away town?

                      Whatever one does, it should not be at a ballpark, because invariably, the "kiss cam," will project them on the "Diamondtron" screen, and also relay the feed to the TV station, broadcasting the game, where the offended spouse is likely to see. We had two fairly recent examples of that in Phoenix. Have not heard of lawsuits on the "audience cam" broadcasts, but there might have been some?

                      Hunt

                    2. re: hannaone

                      Most places I've seen with cameras do have a sign somewhere that says CCTV in use. Typically it's right as you enter the establishment.

                      1. re: hannaone

                        I think the general law for surveillance cameras is if there's no audio attached to the video, it's not a privacy issue if it's a public space

                        Any way, I'd prefer not to see camera in restaurants as a service tool...at least at a nicer place where you expect more then a chain experience.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          Would assume they are used more in upscale restaurants.

                        2. re: hannaone

                          I doubt there are many such lawsuits. It would be unusual for the video to become public.

                          1. re: GH1618

                            That was what Disney thought about the cameras on Splash Mountain, until an employee did a Web site called "Flash Mountain," where images of riders of that attraction, flashing for the cameras, was launched. Though it was shut down, it was very active for a bit.

                            Hunt

                    3. re: Janet from Richmond

                      I've opened 40+ restaurants and in my experiece the cameras are there to watch the staff, not the Guests. Most of the cameras are placed to view any cash drawers, POS stations, entrances/exits and in employee areas. It's the best way to protect your investment as an owner.

                      When cause justified a review of tapes, I've observed employees engaged in blatant theft of cash & product, sexual harassment, physical fights, drug deals and general policy & procedure violations.

                      And that's what is going on when they know about the cameras! The majority of restaurant owners/operators don't have the time or interest to watch the Guests unless an issue requires that they do. No one is spending the money on camera systems to catch a Guest that steals a salt shaker or wine glass. They are however, concerned with the case of filets that an employee is sneaking out a side door or the manager that is harassing an underaged hostess.

                      As far as using cameras to time courses? That's just creepy. That would mean that there are people in the BOH standing around watching video monitors of people eatting at every table in a dining room to determine when to fire your entree. I've never seen that and would advise the restaurant to train their Servers better. Cheers!

                      1. re: oldbaycupcake

                        maybe in a big city it is as you say but I won't take the chance in a small town like I am talking about.

                  2. I know that privacy laws in Canada require that people be forewarned of the presence of cameras. This basically means there's a tiny sticker on a door saying "These premises are monitered by CCTV."

                    And while outside theft is a problem for almost every place of business, inside theft is much scarier. A customer will probably move on to another restaurant; employees are there 5 days a week. So the cameras might be there to detect employee theft. Again, with that, privacy laws in Canada have strict rules about when employers can view the cameras. The cameras can be viewed for security purposes, i.e. to verify that a suspected theft is not happening, or to view a theft after it happens, whether it be by a customer of an employee. The employer cannot legally use CCTV to evaluate employee performance. So, they couldn't use the camera to tell that a server spends too much time chatting up the hot new hostess and ignores his customers. And even if they see that on a camera when they are looking for a thief, it can have no bearing on the employee's record, for good or bad. The employer must leave the CCTV viewing area, and catch the errant employee's poor performance in person.

                    But I'm sure the laws are different in the various states. I'm also sure that employers break the rules in Canada. And these same privacy laws protect the customers (and thieves), which means that using CCTV to watch customers "eat, chat and move about while inside" is pretty much against Canadian law.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: miss_bennet

                      I know I'm replying to a very old post, but I've lived in Montreal my entire life and have never heard of a privacy law in Canada where you must be "forewarned of the presence of cameras". Correct me if I'm wrong.

                    2. It is sad to state but we are moving to every buildng having cameras in them Heck jfood was in Costco the other day and they are selling four cameras plus everything else needed for a couple of bucks. Every parking lot has them as well.

                      If jfood were a restaurant owner he would have cameras to avoid the finger-tip in the chile event.

                      Does it bother jfood. If someone wants to watch jfood eat with his friends, that person has way too much time on their hands. Jfood couldn't care less.

                      1. I was in King of Prussia PA with my son who was playing in a squash tournament when my wallet was lifted out of my purse at the Legal Seafood where we waited at the bar for a table. When I told the person in the front what had happened, she asked if I wanted them to review the tapes. I wanted them to, but then they rescinded the offer and I didn't argue, figuring, OK, then what? By then they were long gone charging up a storm at Neiman Marcus. So this begs the question of what the point of all this video surveillance might be? If they weren't anxious to have the tapes reviewed for a crime that had been committed, then what would one possibly need them for? Film away, as far as I am concerned, but for what?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: roxlet

                          roxlet, couldn't you have gotten the police involved and they would have been forced to review the video?

                          1. re: dolores

                            Well, first thing I called my husband since I was away in another city with our son and without money or a credit card. About two years ago, my husband was the victim of identity theft, and neither the police in Bronxville nor in the locality where we discovered that the thief was trying to have credit cards sent had the slightest interest in doing anything about it, so when I told him that I was going to call the police, my husband said, "WHy bother? They're not going to do anything anyway." Plus, my son was in the semis of a national tournament the next morning, and we really just wanted to get some food into him and to get him back to the hotel and in bed. So we didn't pursue it and Legal Seafood was disinclined to "go to the video" and we didn't press matters. Moral of the the story: don't hang your handbag on the back of your chair. As a native of NYC, I really should have known better, but it was pouring rain and my purse was dripping wet and I didn't want to put it on my lap. Maybe the real reason that these restaurants have video surveillance has more to do with their employees than the customers.

                            1. re: roxlet

                              "Maybe the real reason that these restaurants have video surveillance has more to do with their employees than the customers."

                              I think it's like banks which are rarely if ever required to turn over tapes by simple police let alone patron request, even in cases much more serious than purse-snatching. And needless to say, while I'm sure a prosecutor's office would issue a pro forma subpeona, that would be days or weeks later - not much help in a case like this, legally or practically.

                              Here, I'm guessing the waitress just spoke too soon - with the best intentions - and didn't realize she was offering something against policy.

                          2. re: roxlet

                            <<for what?>>
                            to protect the restaurant, not to protect the customers