Ashok Selvam | Eater Chicago | September 20, 2018
A former OpenTable employee who made several hundred fake restaurant reservations in an attempt to harm online reservation rival Reserve faces a charge of wire fraud. The man, Steven Addison, worked in the Chicago office of OpenTable, and from November to February, he made more than 300 fake reservations at Chicago restaurants using Reserve. The scheme, first reported by Eater Chicago, was designed to hurt Reserve causing no shows.
“Addison knew restaurants would suffer financial losses when no diners showed up to claim the reservation, the information states,” a U.S. Attorney’s office news release reads. “Addison’s scheme intended to demonstrate to Chicago restaurants that Reserve had an inferior reservation system, the charge alleges.”
Addison, 30, worked as an enterprise operations specialist for OpenTable and was fired after the news was uncovered. He faces one charge of wire fraud. He used creative names in booking the fake reservations at restaurants like City Mouse in Fulton Market, Presidio in Bucktown, and Tavern on the Park in the Loop. According to the feds, Addison used names like “Hans Gruber” (from Die Hard) “Richard Ashcroft” (lead singer from The Verve) and “Jimmy Smits” (actor from Star Wars and L.A. Law) to make reservations.
He figured out back in November that Reserve didn’t require a working email address to make a reservation, according to the lawsuit. He made about 300 reservations and that led to about 1,200 shows. He targeted busy days like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, according to the complaint and wanted to cause the most harm. Reserve’s software engineers found irregular reservation patterns and traced the scheme to OpenTable. Reserve execs then brought the problem up to OpenTable’s leadership.
OpenTable wasn’t named in the U.S. Attorney’s lawsuit. It was only identified as “a San Francisco-based company that provides an online reservation system for restaurants.” The company did not know about the scheme: “Addison made the reservations on his own accord and did not personally profit from the scheme, the information states,” according to the government.