Bots book up top restaurant tables

The BBC carried a story in their technology section today about coders writing custom bot scripts that search for restaurant reservations and book tables before those looking for themselves can respond.

The story comes from a blog post by a chap called Diogo Monica, in Silicon Valley (where else), who noticed that tables at a good restaurant he likes were getting booked up by bots and so he decided to write one for himself. The BBC story narrates how:

The code emailed Mr Monica when other diners cancelled reservations or SBP released more tables. While the code helped him get a table now and then it quickly became ineffective. Close scrutiny of the [restaurant’s] website revealed why.

“I found myself looking at it and noticed that as soon as reservations became available on the website (at 04:00), all the good times were immediately taken and were gone by 04:01,” he wrote.

As with many other time sensitive transactions, in this fairly rudimentary software domain of online reservations a veritable arms race has ensued in the creation of more sophisticated and more rapid software programmes. The fairly arbitrary rules of booking, with automated update timings etc., become the terrain for battle. Where once the ‘who you know’ at the restaurant or in the right social circles would secure you a good table at the most desirable location and time it seems to have transformed, in some cases, into the ‘what you know’ of online booking systems code. As Mr Monica suggests:

“As for tactics, think of this war like high-frequency trading,” he said. “The people with the best algorithms/optimisations will have an edge over everyone else.”


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