If OpenTable's corporate leadership wants to position it as a force in the restaurant world, dropping key marketing, product, and communications executives is a step in the wrong direction.
— Kristen Hawley
OpenTable and Kayak will integrate their teams functionally, according to an internal memo sent by Kayak CEO Steve Hafner to OpenTable employees, Skift Table has learned. Both Kayak and OpenTable are units of Booking Holdings.
The move is designed to cope with some of OpenTable’s shortcomings, including its pace of growth, especially when it comes to international expansion beyond the United States.
OpenTable CEO Christa Quarles will maintain her role, but will report to Kayak co-founder and CEO Steve Hafner. There are no changes to the OpenTable or Kayak brands.
Other key members of OpenTable’s leadership teams will transition out of their roles beginning later this month. Joseph Essas will remain OpenTable chief technology officer, assuming full responsibility for the OpenTable technology, product, and design teams, reporting to Kayak’s CTO, Giorgos Zacharia. OpenTable’s current head of product, Prasad Gune, will leave the company as of June 15, according to the memo.
Marketing and communications teams will be streamlined under Kayak’s direction, with longtime OpenTable senior vice president of marketing, Scott Jampol, and communications lead Tiffany Fox transitioning out of their roles in June and July. Tore Pein Jensen, current Kayak chief marketing officer, will lead the groups’ new, combined marketing efforts.
“We simply streamlined the executive team to speed decision-making and trim a bit of cost,” Kayak co-founder and CEO Steve Hafner told Skift Table. “The real work takes place over the next 90 days. Our teams are now under common leadership and I expect our innovation and execution velocity to accelerate. OpenTable is a key piece of Booking Holdings’ mission to help people experience the world. We’re doubling down.”
In the memo, Haftner said, “These changes may be rocky in the short term but I’m excited to see our execution improve over time. Thanks in advance for your patience and help.”
Parent company Booking Holdings decision to integrate OpenTable into Kayak has parallels with what the company did on January 1: Booking Holdings folded Rentalcars.com into Booking.com in order to take advantage of potential synergies.
With OpenTable leadership reporting to Kayak, Booking Holdings’ apparent thinking was that Kayak’s experience in scaling its own businesses from a marketing and technology perspective could help OpenTable. After all, after acquiring OpenTable for $2.6 billion in 2014, Booking Holdings took a $941 million writedown on OpenTable.
Kayak already operates multiple brands, including Momondo, Swoodoo and Checkfelix, but Opentable is the first brand outside of travel metasearch that Kayak will be responsible for.
“This is an internal organizational shift intended to help us better leverage talent and expertise across our various brands,” said Booking Holdings spokeswoman Leslie Cafferty of the OpenTable-Kayak integration. “A number of brands operate under Kayak, including recently acquired Momondo, and this move is in line with our overarching commitment to look for synergies across the Booking Holdings brands.”
Full memo text:
We’ve spent a lot of time since February thinking about how to best structure the OpenTable and KAYAK relationship and our 2,000 employees.
After carefully considering options, we’ve changed direction and will integrate our teams functionally. The goal is to eliminate barriers between our brands, streamline decision-making, and build a common culture.
Christa Quarles remains OpenTable CEO and leads all restaurant facing activity. Andrea Johnston, SVP Global Sales; Alisa Weiner, VP Restaurant Marketing; and Tiffany Fox, Sr. Director Communications report to Christa
Joseph Essas remains OpenTable CTO and assumes full responsibility for the OpenTable technology, product and design teams. Joseph will report to Giorgos Zacharia, KAYAK CTO
Connie Chen remains OpenTable General Counsel but will report to Ben Berman, KAYAK General Counsel
Debby Soo assumes responsibility for OpenTable’s business development and partnership team as CCO
Tore Pein Jensen adds responsibility for OpenTable consumer marketing as CMO.
Peer Bueller leads finance. OpenTable’s Steven Lyth, Director FP&A; Quincy Yang, Sr. Director of Business Operations; and Keith Kirk, VP Corporate Controller report to Peer Simon Jones, SVP People, will oversee our entire human resources function
Prasad Gune, Scott Jampol, and Jeff McCombs will transition out of OpenTable on June 15. Scott Day and Tiffany Fox will transition out of OpenTable on July 31 after helping unite our people and public relations functions
Christa and I will be in OpenTable’s San Francisco office today for live Q&A at noon PST. Please submit and vote on questions here until 11a PST (8p CET). We’ll record the session and make it available to you online afterward.
These changes may be rocky in the short term but I’m excited to see our execution improve over time. Thanks in advance for your patience and help.