There are two things startups shouldn't fuck with in San Francisco. One is parking, and the other is restaurants. San Francisco is, after all, a city of foodies. Techies write bots to score competitive reservations. Foodies stand two hours in the rain waiting for day-old New York bagels. Now a startup is drawing fire for trying to capitalize off that love.
ReservationHop bills itself as a service that "[makes] reservations at the hottest restaurants in advance so you don't have to." The service scrapes advance reservation systems to fill up its inventory and sells them back to users for "as little as $5." In other words, they're scalping dinner reservations.
The startup operates in such an unofficial gray area, they even inform customers "After payment, we'll give you the name to use when you arrive at the restaurant."
Of course, the service is effectively capturing money away from restaurants—one of the most famously risky businesses out there. And the situation is made worse by the fact they are making empty reservations to sell, creating situations in which Reservation Hop's unsold "inventory" could result in empty tables.
Nakano further elaborates in an email:
An app like that, while not breaking any rules or laws per se, has the potential to be hurtful to small businesses that rely on having a reservation book full of diners that actually show up. What happens to the reservations that no one winds up buying? This is a perfect example of tech trying to "disrupt" something without thinking of the consequences. I hate this idea. It's awful and selfish and if it was my restaurant I would check that site everyday to see if my place were listed there so I could delete those reservations.
Richie isn't alone. The initial feedback on Twitter is not good:
This is irresponsible and sleazy and exactly what people hate about startups sucking the life out of San Francisco https://t.co/pqz572FWA9
— mat honan (@mat) July 3, 2014
— James Hupp (@jamestweeting) July 3, 2014
https://t.co/56TM3JMAPg Evil, and not in an ironically charming way.
— Alan D (@peacefinder) July 3, 2014
Seems to me the only product SF's techbros are producing lately is sleaze.
— Kate Horton (@ladymisskate) July 3, 2014
worst thing i've seen in a while https://t.co/Fl9aquR4GC
— paul pod (@paulpod) July 3, 2014
— Alastair Coote (@_alastair) July 3, 2014
Naturally, the only person who seems interested in this is Reservation Hop's friend at TechCrunch.
[h/t Mat Honan]