Brian Fitzpatrick thought he was a Googler for life. He worked out of the company’s Chicago office for over nine years, and gave up chances for promotion to keep working on products he loved, notably tools that allowed users to ditch Google and take their information with them. (“Fitz,” as he is widely known, dubbed the effort the “Data Liberation Front.”) While his business card read “engineering manager,” he referred to himself as a “data sommelier.” He thought his professional life was perfect.
But on June 4, 2014, he read a long blog post by a restaurateur about a different way of handling reservations — and instantly discarded his intention to remain at Google until retirement. “I read it twice,” he says. “It blew my mind.” Specifically, the post described the system under effect at Alinea and a few other high-end Chicago restaurants, where diners prepay for meals and are issued tickets for seatings. Fitz was bowled over by the way that the system benefited both customers and restaurants. He wanted to be part of it.