Article published in Hospitality Upgrade, October 27, 2017
Written by Jennifer Jones
Waiting in line is never fun. Especially not when you're hungry and trying to get a table at the latest dining hotspot. But today’s technology can make the process less painful for patrons and restaurateurs alike.
DineTime from QSR Automations, Inc., offers an iOS and Android app that lets customers view and compare current wait times and reserve their place in line. It uses smartphone GPS to detect their location and list nearby dining establishments. Restaurateurs can use the system to create a paperless waitlist. Instead of costly pagers, the restaurant can notify guests that a table is ready via SMS text. It can also track valuable data like wait time estimates and customer profile information. Plus it integrates with third-party loyalty programs. The company also offers full restaurant management software, including an enterprise version that allows users to manage several locations from one spot.
If you're looking for an app to manage walk-in and call-in requests, Waitlist Me could be the answer. It can show you who’s at your door, how long they've been in line and what wait time you quoted them. Guests can check a public waitlist view, either via their mobile device (no app required) or on a screen in the restaurant. The app tracks historic wait-time averages by group size to prevent over-quoting and walkaways. Hosts can use custom, color-coded statuses to define different types of guests. Waitlist Me’s proprietary text and call notification infrastructure eliminates the need for third-party providers. Guests receive phone calls or texts when their table is ready. They can reply to postpone or cancel their spot, which immediately updates the app. The standard service plan includes 100 free notifications a month. A premium subscription unlocks more features, including powerful analytics. An API can integrate with your branded experience.
CAKE Guest Manager, from Sysco, brings a unique flavor to waitlist management. Like many applications, if offers a table management module. CAKE runs on iPad and iPad Mini and is supported on Chrome and Safari. Standard functions include two-way messaging and an app for your guests to add themselves to a queue. Its integration with Cake point of sale provides an all-in-one experience. If offers a record 99.99 percent uptime as well as a failsafe offline mode to access data if your Wi-Fi goes out.
Nowait, which was recently acquired by Yelp, lets guests download an iOS or Android app that gets them in line before they arrive. It’s the engine behind the “Add to Waitlist” button that began to appear on Yelp restaurant reviews a few months ago. As an added bonus, the app lets guests provide private, verified feedback after their visit. It’s even time stamped to specific tables. The product’s analytics suite provides daily metrics that include longest waitlist and longest wait time.
Whether you're looking to increase table turn times, quote wait times more accurately or improve the guest experience, a waitlist management tool is a simple addition to your existing technology suite that can instantly add value to your restaurant.
Leverage Your Data
rGuest Seat acts as a standalone table management system, but also fluidly integrates with InfoGenesis, Agilysys’ POS product. You can get a web version for your front of house terminal, or run it from a tablet so staff can move freely about the restaurant. If offers integrated online reservations and an automated waitlist to help provide guests more accurate wait times. It will text or page diners when their table is ready.
This cloud-based system can help you leverage guest data like never before. Staff can easily look up historic guest spend data and drill down into past checks. You’ll gain insight into customer preferences and habits and configure ways to rate your guests, such as giving them VIP status after a certain number of visits. You can store photos in their profile. With this information at your fingertips, you can provide loyal guests outstanding recognition the moment they hit the doors. Enabling this data on an iPad allows mangers on the floor to be mobile to ask questions like, “Who are my VIPs this evening? Do I have their favorite wines in stock?” Perhaps your chef would like to drill down into the evening’s reservations to research a returning guest's profile information. The kitchen can use the app to update table status on your layout when food goes out.
That lets the front-of-house staff provide more accurate wait time quotes for people on your waitlist. rGuest Seat can help prevent walk-a-ways by offering accurate wait quotes using machine learning. The key to these calculations is making sure your team provides good data – updating serve times, food delivery statuses and making sure average turn times are configured properly: How fast does a 2-top turn on a Saturday night?
You can notify guests that their tables are ready via interactive SMS text or email using scripted, preset messages. Pager systems keep patrons trapped by the front door, but text notifications let them shop, go to the bar, play the slot machines, etc. Guests can respond to let you know they’re on the way or that they need more time. If they change their mind and cancel, you can immediately give that table to someone else.
Keep an eye out for enhancements to rGuest Seat’s floor management function. You’ll be able to provide VIP alerts via smartphone and create a custom status that alerts managers to specific situations and points them to the actual table.
Jennifer Jones is president at J2 Hospitality Solutions, a technology consulting firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.