- OpenTable CEO Crista Quarles, one of the only female company leaders in the restaurant tech segment, will leave her post at the end of 2019, Skift Table reports.
- Parent company Booking Holdings — which also owns travel site Kayak — reorganized the reservation giant’s executive structure earlier this year, eliminating some positions and moving Quarles under the command of Kayak CEO Steve Hafner. Now, Hafner will run point at OpenTable, and there are no plans to instate a new CEO.
- "It's a recognition that we've combined both OpenTable and Kayak functionally, by department. We have one marketing team, one finance team, one product team," Hafner told Skift Table.
Quarles' ouster isn't especially surprising following OpenTable's executive shuffle last spring — a tactic Booking Holdings' is applying across its brands to streamline operations and improve customer experience. In June, the travel and hospitality giant booted OpenTable's marketing and communications leads, placing both of those teams under Kayak's CMO. In January, the parent company had brand Booking.com absorb subsidiary RentalCars.com.
For OpenTable, the loss of singular leadership could yield access to a stronger team of engineers, product developers and marketers. But Quarles' departure could impact the culture and vision of the 20-year-old company, which Quarles aggressively worked to modernize during her three-year tenure. The Disney vet focused on improving the speed and quality of product development to catch up to cloud-based competitors. Under her watch, 10 restaurant groups have been testing a one-stop-shop reservation setup that gives them access to customer data across locations — something competitors have offered from inception.
Earlier this year, Quarles also led the launch of GuestCenter, a cloud-based product rather than the in-store software long pushed by the company. The consolidated reservation system, which is set to be available to all OpenTable customers by the end of the year, finally marked a big — albeit belated — step into a streamlined, data-driven future.
In addition to amping up new features, Quarles strived to foster a more inclusive work environment for women employees, as the tech and restaurant industries are both notoriously male-dominated. She also personally visited 120 chefs and restaurateurs during her first year at the helm to learn how OpenTable could improve its product. That kind of personalization and deep ties with the restaurant industry could prove impossible to replicate under consolidated leadership — a loss that could damage OpenTable's brand.
Though the company is the largest reservation platform in the game, with 47,000 restaurant partners worldwide, it's lost the business of star chefs and lauded restaurant groups in U.S. cities where upstarts like Resy and Reserve operate. Bookings plans to pursue a number of initiatives to get the brand back in fighting shape, including major hardware updates, enhanced customer data and new pricing structures.
It's possible that company's move to fold Kayak and OpenTable could create a more streamlined experience for consumers, which could attract more restaurant partnerships — though if it continues to trim the reservation platform's leadership team, it risks losing some of its vision in the shuffle.