6 Waitlist Management Tools for Restaurants

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

  1. MBlackburn
    June 17, 2014

    DineTime is the new guest management software from industry leader QSR Automations. Manage your wait list remotely, sync devices in real time, receive daily reports, take advantage of the guest book to record your guest experience. http://www.dinetimehost.com

  2. SoCalBanchies
    June 26, 2014

    I’d love to read an article about the best consumer app for finding wait times at restaurants around you. I’ve started using one called wālo (http://www.waloapp.com) here in southern California, although it seems to be only in pilot testing for this area.

  3. Gina Johnson
    November 9, 2014

    Whether you need a paging system for table service or fast casual environments, PagerTec® Restaurant Pagers provide the tools to help your restaurant paging experience be successful.

  4. Gina Johnson
    November 9, 2014

    Whether you need a paging system for table service or fast casual environments, PagerTec® Restaurant Pagers provide the tools to help your restaurant paging experience be successful.

  5. Alex
    July 7, 2015

    Here is the another simple lime management solution http://www.linebuzzer.com/

  6. Christoffer Klemming
    August 20, 2015

    Waitwhile (waitwhile.com) is a free waitlist app built by Googlers that is super easy to use.

    Diners added to a waitlist get a personalized confirmation SMS with estimated wait time, place in line and a link where they can monitor the queue in real-time. A few minutes before their tables are ready, diners receive an automated text and they can cancel right from their phones.

    Waitwhile also builds guest profiles allowing restaurants to identify and reward loyal customers. On the dashboard restaurateurs can also see diner visits by weekday and hour, and learn how well they are quoting wait times to improve efficiency.

    Restaurants also get a customer-facing waitlist where they can allow customers to add themselves and see today’s juicy specials.

    Oh, and did I mention that it’s totally free? 🙂
    (blatantly obvious disclaimer: I’m the founder and would love feedback!)

    1. March 3, 2016

      Hey Christoffer! Would love to chat with you about whether Waitwhile could be used within a hospital setting. I’m a surgery resident and my team is looking into ways to send an sms to a patient’s pre-determined contacts when we have an update for them about the surgery, etc. What’s the best way to get in touch?

      1. Christoffer Klemming
        March 3, 2016

        Hey David! That sounds great, in fact we have several major hospitals and clinics using Waitwhile daily for this very purpose. You can reach me on my personal email christoffer (at) waitwhile.com and I’ll help you get started!

  7. Robert
    January 27, 2016

    There is also Hop Swap IT, (hopswapit.com)a FREE to use waitlist management system with unlimited paging. Diners are added to the waitlist by showing the logger their Hop Swap IT code and will then receive a text and/or email message when their table is ready. No need to verbally give any private information at the podium. In fact, the diner chooses to give the restaurant their name and number or remain private by choosing anonymous. Only a code and party size will display on the list which increases a diners trust and concerns about giving away private numbers. Restaurants also receive free advertising and an increase in online traffic.

    An Extreme version with a low one-time cost that includes table/staff management and analytics is also available. This version also has the capability of having diners add themselves to the waitlist when a host is not available or employed.

    Give it a try. Again, it’s Free to restaurants and diners.

  8. Paul
    November 19, 2017

    You guys need to check out Waitku. It’s a full featured waitlist app for restaurants. Full table and server management. Only $49/month includes unlimited texting. https://www.waitku.com

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