Bots are Snatching Up Hot Restaurant Reservations and What Restaurants are Doing About It

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By georgeskef

  • Bots are snatching up hot restaurant reservations as soon as they’re posted
  • Reservations are being resold on various marketplaces, such as Appointment Trader and Cita
  • These marketplaces are causing frustration for diners trying to book reservations the traditional way
  • Restaurants are losing out on cancellation fees and empty tables due to bot-booked seats
  • Some restaurants are actively verifying reservations to ensure they were booked by humans
  • Other platforms like Dorsia and Resy are partnering with restaurants to offer secure reservations
  • Charging upfront reservation fees is becoming a common practice

It’s a familiar scenario for many diners – eagerly reading through a list of the hottest new restaurants in their city, only to find that securing a reservation is nearly impossible. This frustration isn’t just due to high demand; it’s because bots are swooping in and reserving tables faster than any human can. These bots, similar to those used to snatch up concert tickets, are causing a headache for both diners and restaurants alike.

Marketplaces like Appointment Trader, Cita, and ResX have emerged as platforms for buying and selling restaurant reservations. Users can list their reservations for sale and others can purchase them, often at highly inflated prices. While this may be convenient for those willing to pay a premium, it creates an unfair playing field for traditional diners trying to secure a reservation through legitimate means.

For diners, the frustration lies in the fact that even when using popular reservation apps like Resy, Tock, or OpenTable, they’re often out of luck as bots have already taken all the available slots. This means missed opportunities to experience the latest culinary hotspots or celebrate special occasions at sought-after restaurants.

Restaurants are also feeling the negative impact of these bots. When bot-booked seats go unfilled, restaurants not only lose out on potential revenue from cancellation fees charged to invalid credit cards, but they also have to deal with empty tables that could have been filled by genuine customers. This creates a financial loss and reduces the overall dining experience for other patrons.

In response, restaurants are taking action to combat the bot invasion. Some establishments are meticulously reviewing reservations to determine if they were legitimately booked by humans. This manual verification process is time-consuming but necessary to ensure fair access for genuine diners. Others are reserving more spots for walk-ins, allowing those without reservations to have a chance to dine at the restaurant.

Additionally, there are platforms like Dorsia that offer a different approach to securing a reservation. Users prepay a minimum spend, which is determined based on demand, to secure their reservation. This prepayment is later applied towards their total bill, ensuring that the reservation is not wasted and reducing the likelihood of no-shows.

In a similar vein, Resy has launched its Global Dining Access program, partnering with American Express to offer exclusive reservations to cardholders. This collaboration aims to give diners a way to secure reservations at top restaurants without battling the bots.

Unfortunately, the safest bet for both diners and restaurants is to charge upfront reservation fees. While this may be an inconvenience for some, it guarantees that reservations are taken seriously and reduces the likelihood of flaky behavior or no-shows.

The battle against reservation bots is far from over, but restaurants and technology platforms are taking steps to level the playing field. By implementing stricter verification processes, partnering with reputable companies, and increasing transparency, they hope to create a more fair and enjoyable dining experience for everyone. So, next time you want to try that trendy new restaurant, be prepared to pay upfront and secure your spot in advance.

Battle of the Bots:

Just like Taylor Swift concert tickets, hot restaurant reservations get snatched up instantly by bots (like this one ) as soon as they’re posted.

The Rise of Reservation Marketplaces:

On Appointment Trader, users buy and sell restaurant reservations, with the site taking a cut of the sale price. Cita, another marketplace, allows peer-to-peer buying and selling of reservations. ResX offers a free exchange of reservations for tokens, with a monthly subscription for access to premium restaurants.

Frustration for Diners and Restaurants:

Traditional diners trying to book reservations through apps like Resy, Tock, or OpenTable are often out of luck due to bots. Meanwhile, restaurants lose out on revenue from cancellation fees and empty tables caused by bot-booked seats.

Restaurants Fight Back:

Restaurants are manually verifying reservations and saving more spots for walk-ins. Platforms like Dorsia and Resy are partnering with restaurants to provide secure reservations, with upfront prepayments or exclusive access for cardholders.

The Solution: Charging Upfront

To ensure a reservation is honored and reduce no-shows, many restaurants are adopting upfront reservation fees. While it may be an inconvenience, it helps create a more fair and enjoyable dining experience for everyone.

Hot Take

The rise of reservation bots is undoubtedly a nuisance for both diners and restaurants. However, the industry’s response to the problem is commendable. By implementing verification systems and partnering with trusted platforms, restaurants are taking back control. While upfront reservation fees may not be ideal, they offer a necessary solution to combat the bot invasion. As long as the fees are reasonable and provide value to diners, this practice has the potential to improve the overall dining experience and ensure fair access to reservations. So, don’t be surprised if your next dinner at a hot restaurant comes with a small reservation fee – it’s the price we pay for a truly exclusive dining experience.