Developer: NoWait, Inc.
Runs on: iPhone, iPad
Cost: Free (premium services available)
Whether a restaurant offers reserved seating or simply places you on a waiting list for first come, first served seating, neither option has scratched the surface of understanding the all-important patron. What does a plastic hockey-puck-looking device that lights up and buzzes know about the person holding it? The field was wide open for a sophisticated communication app that provides vital dining information to the customer, the host and most importantly, the restaurateur. Two decades after the plastic buzzer came along, that app has arrived.
NoWait is a new seating system created for casual dining, no-reservation restaurants. NoWait asks diners to hand over their cell phone number so they can be texted when their table is ready. According to the Pew Research Center, 91% of the adult U.S. population now owns some kind of cell phone. With that kind of penetration, why are restaurants handing plastic devices over to patrons when 9 out of 10 already have a device in their pocket.
The NoWait app is free to download for the iPhone and iPad and offers benefits to the customer and restauranteur. For example, once the diner has checked in, they can see how many people are in front of them in line to gauge the wait.
For the restaurant, a powerful set of tools is on hand. To start, you will see the estimated wait time provided your diner and the time they’ve already been waiting. A floor map allows you to mark tables as occupied or open—this becomes particularly powerful since multiple devices can sync, so cooks in the back are given a virtual window into the front occupancy, as well as the upcoming flow of diners.
The best part about this app is the analytic insight it provides. The app collects a bunch of data on the number of people who have checked in, the wait time, the occupancy numbers, the time of day, quoted times versus actual wait times, the number of people who simply walked out, and more. All of this data is neatly compiled and e-mailed daily so you can better prepare for and serve your customers.
In addition, with diner information in the system, it’s easy for them to opt-in to receive further communications about upcoming deals and promotions. For example, a pub could inform regular patrons when a new brew has been tapped, or an Italian restaurant could announce when their seasonal Tuscan menu is available with a sale on their signature dessert.
Since the system has rolled out, one of the unexpected benefits has been diners texting back. If a diner is browsing the local shopping center, for example, they might reply that they’re “5 minutes away.” This is a vast improvement over having hoards of hungry patrons blocking the entrance and discouraging others from even attempting to dine at your restaurant.
Smartly, the app is customizable since each restaurant is different. For the floor plan, restaurant owners can add information such as outdoors, booth, TV, etc. This also makes it quick and easy when a diner has a seating request. The text message that is sent out can also get customized, i.e., “Holy guacamole that was fast. Your table is ready.”
The restaurant industry has always been about good food and service. Providing your diners with control and fun while gathering important service information should be on the menu’s Daily Special…every single day.