6 Waitlist Management Tools for Restaurants

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restaurantEager to eliminate the organizational challenges and financial liabilities that go along with traditional reservation systems, restaurants are increasingly turning toward digital platforms that allow diners to stay at home, or shop at nearby businesses, until their tables are ready.

Although the exact number of restaurants using new waitlist technology is hard to come by, there’s no doubt that this is an area of hyperlocal that’s taking off. Already, platforms like NoWait and NoshList, two early entrants into the marketplace, have managed to secure millions in funding from top investors. As smartphone adoption continues to grow—1.76 billion people worldwide will use smartphones by the end of 2014—it’s expected that mobile waitlist management tools will replace the paper lists and in-house paging systems that most restaurants have been using for years.

Here are six platforms that restaurants can use to manage their waitlists without relying on a pencil and paper.

1. NoWait: Decrease the wait time for walk-in diners.
Restaurants that use NoWait can give their customers a way to see how long the wait for a table is in real-time and put their names on the wait list before they’ve actually arrived. Using the “What’s My Place?” feature on the mobile app, diners can check their places in line at any point during their waits. From the restaurant’s perspective, digital wait lists can be accessed from multiple devices, enabling the restaurant’s staff to notify parties that their tables are ready while they’re still working on the floor. NoWait offers a number of analytics and guest management features, as well. Pricing for NoWait ranges from free to $199 per location, per month.

2. BuzzTable: Maximize seated guests to streamline operations.
BuzzTable has developed a waitlist tool that maximizes seated guests with mobile messaging tools. Hosts enter their guests’ phone numbers when they arrive, and guests receive text message confirmations letting them know they’ve been added to the waitlist. Guests are also prompted to download the BuzzTable App, where they can find out about featured menu items and see their progress on the waitlist. When a table is ready, a text or call is placed to the guest. BuzzTable automatically builds guest profiles using phone numbers and names for tracking, allowing restaurants to identify repeat customers and offer custom rewards. Restaurants can also solicit private feedback through the mobile app. Pricing for BuzzTable ranges from free to $99 per month.

3. QLess: Mobile waitlist management for restaurants.
QLess offers a guest management platform that gives customers a way to enter virtual “lines” from their phones, kiosks, or the web. Diners can text or call QLess before arriving at a restaurant to hold their spots in line, and they can receive periodic status updates based on the length of the queue. Rather than pestering hosts for updates on the status of their tables, diners can text or call QLess for real-time information about how long the expected wait will be. QLess provides restaurants with tools for messaging customers, perfect for sending promotions and targeted ads, along with data on customer retention and average wait times. QLess works on a subscription-pricing model.

4. NoshList: Let customers review their place in the queue.
NoshList has developed an app that restaurants can use to manage waitlists from mobile devices. When hosts add diners to their waitlists, NoshList sends text message confirmations that include current wait time details. Diners can tap a link in those messages to see how much longer they have to wait. When their tables are ready, diners receive automated texts, and they can postpone or cancel right from their phones. NoshList also offers a number of CRM tools that let restaurants track the behavior of frequent guests (for example, noting a diner’s seating preferences or allergies), along with analytics that break down how many people they’ve served by gender and age. NoshList’s core features are available for free. Premium accounts are $19.99 per month.

5. On Cue: Combine mobile waitlist tools with an existing paging system.
Restaurants that have already invested thousands of dollars into traditional in-house pagers are often hesitant to adopt any platform that would replace pagers with their guests’ mobile phones. Developed by LRS, a provider of on-site paging systems, On Cue is a mobile waitlist management application that gives restaurants the option to notify their customers’ phones or their existing in-house pagers whenever a table is ready. On Cue offers customizable text messaging, wait time tracking, and status indicators for guests. The application is free for restaurants sending fewer than 300 texts per month. Premium packages start at $39.

6. Table’s Ready: Text customers when their tables are ready.
Restaurants can use Table’s Ready to notify customers when their tables are ready, without investing in paging hardware. Rather than relying on in-house pagers, restaurants are able to send text notifications to customers when their tables are available. When a customer calls ahead or walk up for service, the host enters the person’s contact information into the Table’s Ready platform and starts a timer. When that customer’s table is ready to go, Table’s Ready sends an automated text or phone call to the diner. Table’s Ready provides restaurant with data on their average wait times and wait time trends. The web-based platform costs $69.95 per month for restaurants.

Know of other tools that restaurants can use to manage their waitlists? Leave a description in the comments.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Related Street Fight content: To Wait or Wait Not: The Changing Dynamics of Eating Out

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.