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

g
gutreactions Jun 20, 2008 05:51 AM

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. s
    swsidejim Jun 20, 2008 05:54 AM

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

    1 Reply
    1. re: swsidejim
      j
      Janet from Richmond Jun 20, 2008 06:19 AM

      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. c
      Cachetes Jun 20, 2008 05:55 AM

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

      19 Replies
      1. re: Cachetes
        Miss Needle Jun 20, 2008 06:03 AM

        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
          PotatoHouse Mar 16, 2013 12:51 PM

          "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
            Bill Hunt Mar 17, 2013 09:18 PM

            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
              PotatoHouse Mar 18, 2013 03:18 AM

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

              1. re: PotatoHouse
                Bill Hunt Mar 19, 2013 06:12 PM

                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
          j
          Janet from Richmond Jun 20, 2008 06:20 AM

          My guess is mostly for security and liability issues.

          1. re: Janet from Richmond
            hannaone Jun 20, 2008 08:02 AM

            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
              d
              dolores Jun 20, 2008 08:07 AM

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

              1. re: dolores
                hannaone Jun 20, 2008 08:14 AM

                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
                  j
                  Janet from Richmond Jun 20, 2008 09:04 AM

                  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
                    d
                    dolores Jun 20, 2008 09:17 AM

                    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
                      Bill Hunt Mar 17, 2013 09:22 PM

                      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
                      q
                      queencru Jun 20, 2008 09:06 AM

                      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
                        m
                        ML8000 Jun 21, 2008 11:59 AM

                        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
                          melpy Mar 14, 2013 11:49 AM

                          Would assume they are used more in upscale restaurants.

                        2. re: hannaone
                          g
                          GH1618 Mar 16, 2013 03:32 PM

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

                          1. re: GH1618
                            Bill Hunt Mar 17, 2013 09:24 PM

                            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
                      oldbaycupcake Jun 24, 2008 12:20 AM

                      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
                        LaLa Jun 24, 2008 01:34 PM

                        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. m
                    miss_bennet Jun 20, 2008 11:14 AM

                    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
                      c
                      causeimhungry Mar 16, 2013 03:03 PM

                      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. jfood Jun 20, 2008 03:35 PM

                      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. roxlet Jun 20, 2008 04:42 PM

                        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
                          d
                          dolores Jun 21, 2008 02:33 AM

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

                          1. re: dolores
                            roxlet Jun 21, 2008 08:32 AM

                            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
                              m
                              MikeG Jun 21, 2008 10:47 AM

                              "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
                            westsidegal Mar 15, 2013 10:38 PM

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

                          3. m
                            MikeG Jun 21, 2008 10:27 AM

                            It bothers me less in restaurants than in some other places like private cameras on buildings facing "out" at streets rather than at entrances, alleys, etc.

                            That's for video, until/unless it becomes a social norm (shudder), I wouldn't patronize any entertainment-type venue that "monitored" or recorded audio on the individual-voice level. And I would expect very obvious, clear disclosure if it were being done. I agree with others who more or less assume we're being watched these days. But I don't expect my conversations to be listened to by mechanical/electronic means, nor recorded.

                            Needless to say, I don't tapes of me being peddled around on street corners, but I'm sure there are some basic legal protections against that kind of disclosure and if continues to remain as common as it is, I'm sure that area of law will develop more at some point.

                            As for affairs, not getting caught is a privilege, not a right, so I personally have no personal or civil sympathy for anyone who gets busted because their spouse had them followed to the restaurant and then subopoenaed the tapes for the divorce proceeeding.

                            1. Boccone Dolce Jun 21, 2008 04:27 PM

                              Reminds me of the phrase- True Character is how you act when No One is Watching
                              (or something close to it)
                              I don't have to like it, but it doesn't mean I want to see myself on the internet in 6 months under the title "Crust-free Eats Pizza Toppings Only"

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Boccone Dolce
                                LaLa Jun 21, 2008 04:56 PM

                                Even in my small podunk town in Ky there are places we don't go when negotiating deals because of this.

                                1. re: Boccone Dolce
                                  olyolyy Mar 14, 2013 12:43 PM

                                  lol

                                2. f
                                  foodie2424 Jun 23, 2008 01:17 PM

                                  Seems inappropriate to me. Yes you should be informed that you are being taped- you never know where that tape can wind up. You may be having a sensitive business meal, job interview, etc.

                                  1. Kholvaitar Mar 14, 2013 07:39 AM

                                    I can imagine a room full of dogs watching us eat and waiting to lick our plates.

                                     
                                    1. l
                                      lemons Mar 16, 2013 07:12 AM

                                      This is not a new development. At least one 5-star resto in NYC was using it about 20 years ago to be able to time courses. I am not sure what the diff is here versus the people at the other tables seeing you or people taking videos or photos of the room. There would be, to me, no expectation of privacy in such a public space.

                                      1. boyzoma Mar 16, 2013 08:37 AM

                                        This reminds me of a couple of shows on the Food Network. Restaurant Stakeout and Mystery Diners. Both of which are using the cameras to watch their staff and sometimes the patron's reaction to the staff. So I think it is more along those lines for camera usage. I doubt the cooks in the kitchen have time to study which tables need which food next. But that's just my 2 cents. :-)

                                        1. Bill Hunt Mar 17, 2013 09:17 PM

                                          While I personally feel that the video cameras ARE intrusive, I guess that I have become a bit numb to them (maybe not a good thing), as almost everywhere that I go in the UK/Europe is monitored, and the same for the US now.

                                          I also now worry about the lad at the next table being taken out by a drone with a hellfire missile, with me near by.

                                          When one considers that they are being "watched" in most resorts, in elevators, in every casino, and on many streets, I suppose that it's just a fact of life. Stop by your ATM, go into a 7-11, a bank, the parking structure at an airport, the airport itself, any local, state or Federal building, almost every college campus, or even the toll booths of many bridges/highways, and you ARE on camera. More to come, when some agencies take over your laptop's camera... Also, do not discount those "black helicopters."

                                          Hunt

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                            PHREDDY Mar 18, 2013 07:39 AM

                                            Bill,
                                            Spoke to my daughter about this. (attorney)....she is not an expert in this area, but she did try to some shed some light on it for me.

                                            From what she understands, although not her interpertation...A restaurant is not a public place, but a private establishment. ie; they conduct themselves with the laws set up for restaurants, but do not employ public employees, etc. So all they have to do is post a sign anywhere in the establishment that there are recording devices being used .
                                            She likened it to a full time person sitting high up near the ceiling and watching you. Recording in another issue in the US....you may not distribute for any reason without written consent of the individual being recorded, with exception of a crime. If it is a crime, and used as evidence, then it is the responsibility of the court to blot out any bystanders, not involved.The same goes true if say you are wearing a tee shirt that says "Drink Coke"....even if the person wearing the shirt allows desimination of the recording, the person distributing the recording, must get permission from "Coke", as well.

                                            As she said you do have rights so you are not abused, but remember in any private business you are permitted to watch and record those who patronize or work at your business.

                                            1. re: PHREDDY
                                              Bill Hunt Mar 19, 2013 06:18 PM

                                              Interesting observations, and thank you for sharing.

                                              While CCTV is all around us (just head to the UK, or Europe for a real exposure to them), I am not 100% comfortable, but they do seem to be a fact of life. While I do not spend time in casinos, I would anticipate that every move is being watched by someone, and probably recorded for later use too.

                                              Since I do not have affairs in restaurants, I have few direct issues with the camera's usage.

                                              Heck, watching some of the "restaurant undercover" type programs, has opened my eyes to some issues with service staff. I can see where an owner might want to monitor his/her people, and their interaction with patrons.

                                              Hunt

                                          2. y
                                            youareabunny Mar 19, 2013 02:45 AM

                                            I have no expectation of privacy. But if its a nice establishment I'd expect the cameras to be discreet. Don't want the ambiance ruined with that corner liquor store feel.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: youareabunny
                                              olyolyy Mar 20, 2013 01:56 PM

                                              +1

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