Skift Take

If the dining and travel industries are looking for a bright spot during these dark days, then returning employees are a morsel to hang onto.

With restaurants reopening in the United States and travel picking up from its lows, sister brands OpenTable and Kayak have repatriated around 40 furloughed employees, or around 10 percent of those sidelined in late April.

“We’re bringing more back [furloughed employees] every week as user and partner activity picks back up,” Steve Hafner, the CEO of both of these Booking Holdings brands, told Skift Thursday.

Hafner said most of those returning employees are dedicated to the dining reservations brand, OpenTable, but Kayak has brought back some workers, as well. The action to bring back employees furloughed because of the coronavirus-driven plunge in business began last week and involved around 10 percent of the 400 who were furloughed, he added.

[Update: Tripadvisor’s restaurant reservations platform, TheFork, has likewise started to bring back some furloughed employees, although the company didn’t specify a number.

“Given the increases in dining activity across Europe, TheFork (a Tripadvisor brand) is also beginning to bring a small number previously furloughed employees back to work,” said Tripadvisor spokesman Brian Hoyt.

In the past few months, Tripadvisor furloughed some 850 employees, primarily at TheFork. Tripadvisor subsequently laid off around 900 additional employees.]

The Kayak and OpenTable CEO referenced the fact that the two brands started to bring back some employees during a Bloomberg TV interview Tuesday, but he didn’t provide any detail on the numbers. [See the video embedded below.]

In the interview, Hafner said about half of the 60,000 restaurants on the OpenTable platform have reopened but seated diners are down 78 percent year over year. He said probably one-fourth of those restaurants, which are primarily in the United States, will never reopen.

On the travel front, Hafner said Kayak flight searches are surging since the lows of early April but are still down around 58 percent year over year. He said he doesn’t expect a full travel recovery until 2023.

Hafner said he’s been seeing signs of increased cooperation among both restaurant and travel brands in the very early days of recovery, and he hopes there will be more of this new openness to collaboration in the future. He quipped that Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky should call him about doing a new partnership with Kayak.

“With no business to be had, no one is fighting over marketshare,” Hafner said.

Note: This story has been updated to include Tripadvisor’s comment that it has started to bring back a small number of furloughed employees at TheFork.

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Tags: coronavirus, dining, flights, furloughs, kayak, layoffs, opentable, restaurants

Photo credit: A file photo of the Roister Restaurant in Chicago. OpenTable and Kayak brought back in mid-June around 10 percent of the employees they furloughed nearly a couple of months earlier. Roister Restaurant

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