Controversial Reservation 'Scalping' Site Rethinks Its Mission

A startup that allows customers to pay for restaurant reservations is doing a 'soft pivot' following outrage from the restaurant industry.

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By Kate Taylor

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

After being bashed as a "restaurant scalping service," this startup is backpedaling – or, as the founder calls it, doing a "soft pivot."

On Tuesday, Brian Mayer, the founder of ReservationHop, gave aspiring entrepreneurs a good lesson in knowing when to take a step back and revamp an idea. On his blog, Mayer announced that his startup is reevaluating the best model for success in the restaurant reservation business.

"We appreciate the criticism and honest feedback, which is why today ReservationHop is doing a 'soft pivot' to address… customer demand, and in addition work with the restaurants directly to cut them in on the deal," writes Mayer.

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The move comes after ReservationHop was torn apart by both the tech and restaurant industries for making reservations at popular restaurants under false names, and then selling the reserved spots for $8 to $12. Websites that cover tech called the startup everything from "sleazy," to everything that's wrong with San Francisco. Restaurant industry insiders called out the service as potentially harmful for restaurants left with empty tables reserved by fake diners.

Mayer, who wasn't expect the negativity or the sheer volume of the press ReservationHop was suddenly receiving, quickly backtracked to try and repair his relationship with the restaurant industry. He reports he spent the last couple days meeting personally with restaurant owners, and promises to work with restaurants in the future as the startup reevaluates its model.

Despite the backlash, Mayer is far from the first person to get in on the pay-to-play reservation games. Companies including Resy, Zurvu, Killer Resy and Table8 all offer similar services to ReservationHop, and, while they have attracted some ire from the restaurant industry, have thus far manage to avoid a "soft pivot."

Related: San Francisco Puts the Brakes on a Parking App Startup

Kate Taylor

Reporter

Kate Taylor is a reporter at Business Insider. She was previously a reporter at Entrepreneur. Get in touch with tips and feedback on Twitter at @Kate_H_Taylor. 

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