7.30.2013: Resy Hacks / Fake Restos


Winning the Online Reservation Game with Bots

In theory, the Internet is a great equalizer — access to the Internet means access to information and services available on the Internet. As we perform more of our offline tasks online, including making reservations at many restaurants, the digital super-literate (in this case, software engineers) havecreated simple ways around the system for especially popular restaurants. (Disclosure: I know this guy.)
San Franciscans have enjoyed the fruits of HackerTable — a site that shows available last-minute fancy restaurant reservations — for some time. But with a simple post explaining how its done, one engineer sort-of blew the cover off of this one, calling into question the ethics of using technology to game technology for personal gain. This story was even picked up by the BBC with the subhed, “If you want a good table at a top restaurant in Silicon Valley you had better be a good programmer.”
Here’s the thing: modern restaurants in modern cities are almost expected to offer online reservations. San Francisco is a digital city; how can an “analog” restaurant survive without the convenience of an online reservation system? Is creating a bot to take advantage of this system ethically wrong, or is it smart? Given the current “tech vs. everyone else” climate in San Francisco, this almost becomes a question of entitlement — which, as you’d imagine, doesn’t go over well.
Also interesting: what effect will this have on digital reservation systems generally? Grant Achatz sells prepaid tickets to dinners at Alinea and Next, requiring diners to pre-pay for their meals, akin to buying a concert ticket. Or, will some restaurants just scrap the online model altogether in favor of a no-reservations or phone-only reservation policy? Watch this space — surely new technologies or models will emerge to keep the digital masses well-fed and happy… hopefully in fair practice.



Evernote Food Encourages Better Food Photos with FoodLight

For anyone with an interest in food and dining, photos of food you’ve eaten while traveling, attending special events, or even just spending a Tuesday night out in the neighborhood tend to trigger full memories of where you were, what you were doing, and how you felt as you ate it. But amateur food photographers struggle with a problem well-known to any lifestyle magazine photo director: most foods are extremely tricky to photograph — one wrong move can turn even the most delicious meal into a plate of brown mush.
Evernote Food, launched in 2011, helps users chronicle their lives in food. Now a new iOS update aims to solve that tricky food photography problem with specially-designed filters for food images and FoodLight, a setting designed for low-light situations, generating “an optimal beam of light” instead of a flash to capture your meal. The ethics and aesthetics of actually pulling your phone out of your pocket to take a food photo are still very much up for debate, but cheers to an app that can make even a plate of curry appear less brown and more appealing.



Squarespace for Restaurants

Remember that well-done website for Wylie Dufresne’s Alder I highlighted in April? Turns out it was built with Squarespace, the website-building tool that now offers special consideration for restaurants. The introduction on its website would be enough to win me over as a restaurateur: “Say goodbye to Flash websites and PDF menus.” Yay! Big or small, big city or small town, restaurant sites must be accessible from laptops and mobile; menus should display on every device, and there is no reason that, in 2013, your site displays entirely in Flash — love it or hate it, it just doesn’t work with Apple products. By displaying tools and templates in one place, and encouraging the use of large photos and easy-to-read text, Squarespace helps restaurants display relevant and important information in well-designed formats meant to attract and impress customers. Well done!



Fake Restaurant Reviews Expose Ridiculousness of Online Reviews

Score one for those against online review sites; a businessman in the UK managed to create a fake restaurant listing and pepper it with (ridiculous) reviews for three months before it was removed. Oscar’s, built in the hull of an old shipping boat in Brixham, Devon, featured staff in diving gear that would head out to catch any seafood of diners’ choice — and rivaled the excellence of elBulli. The fictional restaurant even managed to make it halfway up the recommendations list for the small town of Brixham. It appears all the reviews were planted by the restaurant’s creator — the only thing more amazing would have been tricking randoms into contributing fake reviews of a restaurant they’ve never been to. (Surely that happens, right?)



Chipotle Faked the Hack (Seriously does it still matter?)

In news that surprised no one who was watching closely, a Chipotle spokesperson ‘fessed up about its Twitter “hack” last week, admitting, “it was definitely thought out: We didn’t want it to be harmful or hateful or controversial.” This surely left social media managers across the country curiously wondered how many iterations the copywriters and marketing team went through to produce such originality as “Find avocado store in Arvada, Colorado.” The “stunt” was part of the chain’s 20-year anniversary celebration, happening this year — though I’m not sure how it fits into an anniversary celebration. Sure, the restaurant reportedly added about 4,000 followers during its “hack,” but with a follower count in the hundreds of thousands, I’d try posting quality content to encourage engagement — instead of spamming your followers with a stunt. It just seems cheap.



  • The nerdiest beers you can drink — Esquire
  • World’s most unusual food festivals — HuffPo Food
  • The app that allows you to buy your neighbors’ leftovers. Eww. — LeftoverSwap

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