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Are reservation robots the next weapon in snagging the hottest seats?

Diogo Monica's blog, where he talks about the escalating computer arms race to get the most sought-after reservations in the San Francisco area.

How far will people go to get a reservation at a hot restaurant?

I have a friend who was so desperate to get into the French Laundry that he devised an elaborate plan. He learned that there were two online reservations available for the restaurant every night at midnight (as opposed to the bulk of them, which must be made by phone, starting at 8 a.m.). So two months before the night he wanted to eat (the earliest reservations for that seating came available), he stayed up late with the restaurant’s reservations page open on his computer and an atomic clock sitting beside him. As soon as the atomic clock clicked over to 12:00:00, he clicked the reservations tab.

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It worked. He got the table, but he’s a caveman compared to Diogo Mónica, a Bay Area computer security researcher and avid diner.

On his blog, diogomonica.com, Mónica relates the escalating computer arms race to get the most sought-after reservations in the San Francisco area. It all started when one of his favorite restaurants, State Bird Provisions, got hot and reservations became impossible to get.

He wrote a bit of computer code to get around this – basically, as I understand it, the code would track whenever the restaurant’s reservations page sent out an email confirming a new reservation.

“With this quick hack I learned a few things:

  • New reservations open around 4 a.m.
  • People wake up at 4 a.m. to get reservations.
  • At 5 a.m. most of the reservations were gone.
  • Once a reservation got canceled I would get an email and could quickly get it for myself.”

That’s where things got interesting. Because before very long, he discovered that all of a day’s reservations were suddenly being gobbled up by 4:01 a.m. – only one minute after they’d become available.

Apparently, some tech-savvy foodies had created computer “bots” that would make the reservations the instant they became available -- in the same way an Ebay bidding sniper does. So he got creative – he not only wrote code for his own reservation bot but he’s offering it to anyone who wants it.

It’s a great story and to do it justice, you’ve got to read it on his blog. To be honest, there’s so much jargon, much of it could have been written in Sanskrit for all I know. But he does include a link to his own reservation bot, so if you’re going to be eating in the Bay Area, maybe you can level the playing field.

Do you know of any reservation bots for Southern California?

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