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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tech Employees Are Using Robots to Snag Your Dinners

Posted By on Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 3:10 PM

click to enlarge FLICKR/HIROAKI MAEDA

You are what you eat. And in San Francisco, you are what you use to make dinner reservations.

A tech-savvy local foodie named Diogo Mónica discovered that robots were snatching up spots at his favorite restaurant yesterday, according to Buzzfeed. Frustrated with the "inefficient," heavily-trafficked reservations webpage of acclaimed State Bird Provisions, the Square engineer decided to code a program that would track the number of open spots. Within an hour of opening up the reservations disappeared -- all between 4 and 5 a.m.

See also: State Bird Provisions: Western Dim Sum Constantly Surprises

Zagat Names State Bird Provisions and Mission Chinese "Hottest Restaurants in the World"

Ridiculous? Sure, but this is San Francisco food culture we're dealing with -- diehard foodies could, in theory, wake up that early to snatch the coveted tables. But then Mónica looked closer at the rates and realized the reservation-scoopers were moving far too quickly to be humans -- even ravenous hipster humans.

"In under a minute, all the reservations were being taken," he wrote in the blog post that's causing the media feeding frenzy.

After Mónica did some more digging and coding, he discovered the true culprit: reservation bots, or simple scripts engineered by computer programmers to snag the coveted seats. He also found that almost every foodie in Silicon Valley has one, including all of his coworkers. So he made his own, which he's generously provided to us troglodytes via his blog.

As of 1:20 p.m. today, Urbanspoon denies the existence of these bots, saying it has "processes in place to prevent duplicate reservations and combat reservation fraud" and that its goal is "to give real diners the opportunity to make reservations."

Yet the company offers no concrete proof, and acknowledges that "many diners will stop at nothing to get a table at the hottest restaurants in town, like State Bird Provisions."

State Bird itself has no evidence to contradict Mónica's claim: "Obviously I'm sleeping at 4am," said State Bird Provisions chef-owner Stuart Brioza told Inside Scoop.

Regardless of what officials say, Mónica's stance is strong. "The bot war isn't over," he writes. And for the "die yuppie scum" sector, it's just one more call to arms against the techies. First they raise your housing prices, now they're hacking your reservations. But hey -- who wants fried quail anyway?

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Susie Neilson


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