This week, Chicago restaurateur Nick Kokonas (Alinea, Next, Roister, Aviary) shares a photo of a cease and desist letter that his restaurant reservation software company Tock received from one of its rivals, OpenTable, and he also offers a hilarious explanation of a prank that never came to fruition. Earlier this year, Kokonas secured the domain name OpenTableSaurus.com, and established a dummy website that links to the Tock homepage. The restaurateur planned to get this URL printed on several thousands of plastic dinosaurs, and give them away directly outside the upcoming National Restaurant Association show. On Medium, Kokonas explains his vision for the trade-show stunt:
Yeah — we could pass them out as a symbol of OpenTable’s antiquated technology. First, everyone loves dinos, right? When you were 10 years old, dinosaurs were the coolest things in the world. So restaurant owners would actually take the toys because, well, who doesn’t want a toy dinosaur. Then they’d wonder, what’s with this URL? And when they go to the URL we’ll have a big animated Brontosaurus lumbering about the page that says OpenTable on it… and there will be a few others as well — maybe Micros or Aloha because everyone hates their POS systems too. And then a meteor will drop from the blue sky, obliterate the dinos, and boom you get redirected to a Tock page, showing the future of restaurant reservations software — Tock.
In addition to the several thousands of dinosaurs, Kokonas also says that the Tock team purchased a large inflatable dinosaur that they wanted to place outside the convention center, where they would distribute the plastic OpenTableSauruses. “We get the benefits of a booth at the NRA show without actually buying a booth at the NRA show,” Kokonas explains.
Sadly, the restaurateur says that the inflatable dinosaur didn’t work like they had hoped, and his team had a hard time finding a company to print the URL on the plastic toys. He made the tough decision to scrap the stunt and look into getting “a traditional booth at the show” instead. But now, Kokonas says OpenTable has given him an “out.” He’s going to donate the dinosaurs to charity and transfer the OpenTableSaurus URL to the offended party. “It’ll be a relief,” Kokonas writes.
Tock, which was designed to help restaurants manage bookings and curb no-shows, is a direct competitor to OpenTable — the young company even makes pricing and service comparisons to its rival on its homepage. Kokonas and his team raised $7.5 million in a round of funding for Tock last fall.
Update: OpenTable sends along a response this morning:
We, like all companies, value our trademarks. When a company uses a domain name with a trademark it does not own, it’s common practice for the trademark owner to request that the use of the trademark be discontinued. So this is really an example of a commonplace, cut-and-dry trademark matter.
• OpenTableSaurus [Official]
• About a month ago, we had a ‘great’ marketing idea for Tock [Medium]
• All Coverage of Tock [E]