Restaurant Reservation Scalping Site Is Everything Wrong with SF

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."

Restaurant Reservation Scalping Site Is Everything Wrong with SF

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.

As one chef, Hapa Ramen's Richie Nakano put it, "This is disgusting and hurtful to restaurants that already operate on razor thin margins."

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:

Naturally, the only person who seems interested in this is Reservation Hop's friend at TechCrunch.

To contact the author of this post, please email kevin@valleywag.com.

[h/t Mat Honan]