OpenTable CEO Steps Down as Kayak Takes Over
At the end of this year, OpenTable chief executive officer Christa Quarles will step down from the position. In an email to employees, she announced her departure earlier this morning.
OpenTable went through major restructuring earlier this year when parent company Booking Holdings eliminated various positions, including chief financial officer role, and transitioned Quarles under Kayak CEO Steve Hafner. With Quarles stepping down, Hafner will now oversee OpenTable and at the moment there are no plans to search for a new CEO. This move comes as Booking Holdings is streamlining positions across various brands.
“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.
During her time at OpenTable, Quarles championed the modernization of the company, improving the speed and cloud capacity of the product, noted Restaurant Dive. She was named chief financial officer of OpenTable in May 2015 before becoming CEO a few months later in November 2015.
Along with product innovation, she also spent her time broadening the company’s reach into various types of restaurants and establishments. Quarles took a hands-on approach to improving relationships with the restaurants that use OpenTable, even visiting 120 restaurants to hear what the restauranteurs and chefs needed from the product.
GuestCenter, a cloud-based product rather than in-store software, launched earlier this year as a part of Quarles push to modernize the product. By the end of the year, the new streamlined system is set to be available to all customers.
As one of the only female CEOs in the industry, her departure will leave a gap in the representation of women in leadership positions. However, Quarles’ work at OpenTable to create opportunities for women in the workplace can’t be overlooked.
At a forum for Skift Restaurants, Quarles said, “If you can get your organization to a place where the people are loving that they are coming to work, then your turnover is going to be less, you are going to have fewer expenses, you are going to have better service—all of this is going to yield a result for your business. That’s something that I am excited about, we’ve done a few things and continue to do more. And for me it’s personal.”
“I have struggled in very male-dominated industries throughout my life and I think I am very excited to see the changes that are starting to happen in particular in the restaurant industry.”
Hafner wants to reiterate that Quarles departure and the recent consolidations of OpenTable doesn’t mean Booking has lost faith in the company and continue to see the value OpenTable brings to the restaurant industry.
“If someone came along and offered me $4 billion for OpenTable, I wouldn’t sell it,” he said. “I think it’s worth far more.”
Hafner wants to continue Quarles legacy of innovation making it clear to Skift Table that his priorities align with hers, including the continuation of transitioning restaurants to the new cloud-based GuestCenter.