Mobile app manages restaurant wait lists

Mobile app manages restaurant wait lists

Summary: NoWait's service helps small establishments alert waiting patrons through text messages to their mobile phone, foregoing investments in pricey pager systems.


If you are the sort of person who visits restaurants spontaneously rather than making a reservation, you've been on numerous wait lists. And you've probably been handed one of those ridiculously huge pagers that buzzes when your table is ready.

A new application from NoWait is changing the ingredients for more efficient table wait-list management at small restaurants. The service, which is offered through a monthly subscription, replaces bulky, proprietary alert system with one that runs on Apple iOS tablets and smartphones. (The management interface is shown in the photo below.)


The system, which integrates with separate shift-planning and POS applications and services from other vendors, lets a greeter or host keep track of who is waiting on a tablet or smartphone. (Up to three people in a restaurant can update NoWait simultaneously.)

When a table is ready, an alert is sent to waiting parties via a text message to their personal mobile phone or smartphone.

The service is free for restaurants that are managing fewer than 200 parties per month on their wait lists. After that, it starts at $59 per month to support up to 500 waiting parties per month.

NoWait isn't just a way to help make wait-list management more efficient: it also lets managers collect names that can be used later for marketing campaigns, said Robb Myer, CEO and founder of the Pittsburgh-based company, which has so far raised $2 million in venture capital to build out its idea.

"If you use a buzzer, you just write things down," he said. "NoWait gives you a name, phone number. You can track interactions, including how long they have been waiting, and how long it takes for them to get back when you alert them."

From the patron's point of view, NoWait is useful because they can actually leave the establishment to run nearby errands or just to get out of the crowd without the fear of being out of the pager range, he said.

So far, more than 1,200 locations are using NoWait across the United States, including the Green Pig Bistro, located just outside Arlington, Va.

The application has reduced the Green Pig's quoted wait times from 60 minutes down to 30 to 45 minutes. Green Pig can only seat about 120 people at once, a portion of those seats are reserved for parties of six or more people.

"NoWait gives us the flexibility to take reservations and create a waiting list without the encumbering costs of using a reservation system like Open Table," said Tom Voskuil, the Green Pig's restaurant director. "Plus, the monthly fee is more easily absorbed."

He opted to use the application after it seeing it in action at a busy establishment in Washington, D.C.

Since Green Pig is located near a number of retail stores, patrons appreciate the ability to shop while they are waiting instead of being forced to stand in a crowded lobby. "They can be anywhere within a five-minute walk of the restaurant," Voskuil said. 

Topics: SMBs, Cloud

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • This is the death of restaurant pagers

    I now know more about restaurant pagers and their pricing that I wanted to know.
    This is so much cheaper.
    And, the restaurant does not have worry about nor buy replacement pagers.
    Dave Barnes
  • So, now I know never to go to Green Pig Bistro

    or any restaurant that will use this feature.

    Number one, most restaurants don't have reservations anyway. That's reserved for the high-end, $100/plate establishments that expect you to buy some $200/bottle snooty French wine to go with the dinner; you know, the kind of place that requires a reservation even if half of their tables are empty. "Casual-dining" restaurants, or those that are even just a step above, have a "call-ahead" service...except that it doesn't guarantee you immediate seating when you get there, it just means your name is already on the list to be seated. It cuts down, but doesn't eliminate, the wait time. So whether you've planned to go there or decided on the spot, you're going to wait.

    Number two, it *sounds* good to be able to go run some errand while waiting for your table. Except what happens if you get the text while you're 3rd in line at a checkout, & the person currently being waited on has some price/coupon/warranty issue, or is taking forever to make their payment? Restaurants only hold your table for so long before going to the next person, & then you're stuck at the end of the line.

    Number three, if the wait is so long that I have time to run an errand while waiting for a text, my wife is going to say, "Screw it, we're going to eat somewhere else".

    Number four, I'm already paying for the pager service they used previously. It's part of the fixed costs the restaurant has for doing business, & they've incorporated it into the price of their meals. But you can *guarantee* that they didn't lower their prices to reflect their "savings" by cutting out the pager system & texting me. And to top it off, I now have to pay for a text message. So, since the wait staff is apparently doing less work & expecting the customer to pay for it, maybe they should expect a slightly smaller tip as well.

    And finally, I don't like giving out my phone number. Our home number is unlisted, & we always tell the cashier that at the stores that annoyingly ask for a telephone number -- which makes no sense, since a) I didn't give you my name or address, so there's nothing to tie it to, and b) if I don't recognize whose calling then I don't answer anyway, so there's no point in you having it. And while I'm using my cell phone more now than I used to, I still don't see the need to give it out when it's not needed...and giving a random stranger my cell phone so that they can tell me when my table is ready, instead of just calling my name while I'm sitting 5 ft away or using the pager they already purchased, is the height of insanity.