OpenTable, an online restaurant booking service, fired an employee who made hundreds of no-show reservations at various Chicago restaurants through rival site Reserve.
The unnamed OpenTable employee allegedly made around 300 fake reservations through Reserve, the equivalent of 1,200 to 1,300 no-show patrons, according to BuzzFeed. The employee planned on using the hundreds of no-shows in sales pitches to restaurants prove that OpenTable is a better product than Reserve.
“This was obviously done with the intent to harm Reserve,” Reserve COO Michael Wesner told Eater Chicago which first reported the story.
The employee created numerous email accounts and began making the reservations in December. Reserve started investigating after its software engineers noticed an increase in potentially fraudulent activity on Valentine’s Day, an especially profitable and busy day for restaurants. After examining their data, Reserve canceled suspicious bookings and notified restaurants. Reserve software engineers also tracked the employee’s IP address back to OpenTable.
The rogue employee appears to have gone after restaurants who switched from OpenTable to Reserve. According to Eater, one of the eateries targeted was Tavern on the Park in downtown Chicago. It used OpenTable after first opening in 2007, but switched to Reserve in 2017.
OpenTable fired the employee after Reserve brought evidence from its investigation, releasing the following statement to Eater:
“We extend our sincerest apologies to the restaurants in Chicago that were impacted by the disgraceful, unsanctioned activity of a lone OpenTable employee. When this activity was brought to our attention, we swiftly investigated and the employee was terminated immediately. We have begun reaching out to the restaurants and are committed to making it right.”
OpenTable CEO Christa Quarles released an open letter on Twitter.
“This behavior goes against everything we stand for. Our culture and values at OpenTable are founded on the principle of integrity, and that absolutely encompasses how we embrace competition in the marketplace,” the letter says. “The only reason we exist is to help restaurants grow. When they succeed, we succeed. Taking any action that puts restaurants in harm is a direct attack on us as well.”