Picture this: It’s 5pm and your restaurant is getting ready for a busy dinner service. Your host pulls out the giant reservation book and starts looking through a chicken-scratched list of reservations to organize them by time and party size for the night ahead.
The restaurant is fully booked, which is great—until a table decides to order an extra round of drinks after their dessert. And then a big birthday party decides to do gifts before ordering their entrees. And that couple at table 2? They look like they’re having a deep heart-to-heart—and paying no attention to the bill sitting on their table.
All the while, walk-in guests are added to an ever-growing waitlist, and it’s up to the host to try to estimate their average wait times—while also reshuffling and reorganizing reservations and no-shows, taking phone calls, watching for walkaways, and greeting guests.
This is not an uncommon scenario in the restaurant industry. But for about as long as restaurants have been taking reservations, it’s fallen on the host to manage both restaurant reservations and the waitlist, and to try to get all the guests seated at the right time, no matter what setbacks come their way. Doing this manually works, for the most part—but it’s stressful and leaves a lot of room for human error, which can allow parties to fall through the cracks.
That’s why restaurant waitlist software has become so popular. This is a prime area for technology to help restaurants streamline one of their operational pain points: waitlist management. Having an app manage your waitlist for you takes a big headache off the host’s plate—not to mention the fact that technology can often make better time estimates and automatically update your guests about their wait times, which keeps them happier.
Considering a waitlist app for your restaurant? This guide explains all the pros and cons of this new technology.
Why Do You Need a Restaurant Waitlist App?
We get it. Adding a new technology tool to your restaurant’s operations is never easy. But restaurant waitlist and queue management apps solve so many pain points, we think it’s well worth it in this case.
Pain Point: Manually Managing a Waitlist Takes Time and Effort
The scenario we described at the beginning of this article is all-too-common. Hosts have a lot of responsibilities, and the time and effort it takes to manually manage your restaurant’s waitlist is a not-so-small portion of that. A waitlist app automates a large part of the process, freeing up your host to do other jobs, or even helping you save on labor costs.
Pain Point: Accurately Estimating Turnover and Wait Times Is Really Hard
Every person versed in restaurant management knows this: You can try and try to estimate table turnover times, but all the planning in the world can’t account for the fact that sometimes, guests just don’t stick to your turnover times. No tool yet exists that can completely accurately estimate wait times, but a restaurant waitlist app can use historical turnover data to get as close as possible.
Pain Point: Communicating with Guests About Wait Times Is Another Big Chore
When guests are waiting for tables, we know that they stay happier if they receive regular communication and updates about their wait time. Keeping an entire waitlist in the loop is a big chore for a host, but a restaurant waitlist app can send out automated messaging that let guests know if their wait time has changed, when they’re next in line, and when their table is ready.
Bonus: Restaurant Waitlist Apps Can Collect Valuable Data
This benefit doesn’t address a specific pain point that many restaurants face, but it’s incredibly valuable nonetheless: Waitlist apps can help collect useful data about your restaurant and its guests.
We’ve already touched on this by mentioning the ability to use data to better estimate table turn times, which can help you maximize seatings and boost your profits. But waitlist apps are also a great way to collect guest data.
Since guests will need to input their contact information (like their phone number and email address) to check in or receive messages and updates about their table, you can then use that real-time data for marketing—say, by texting guests after their visit with a special discount if they return to your restaurant.
Downsides to Restaurant Waitlist Apps
Like any other tool, waitlist apps aren’t perfect. They also have some downsides.
For one, it’s another new technology that you’ll have to learn how to use, and then, in turn, train your staff to incorporate into the workflow. That takes time, and for busy restaurants, time is a resource that is usually in short supply.
Another downside is that some waitlist apps come with costs for restaurants. Not every restaurant has the budget to take on the expense of new technology tools. This is especially true of waitlist and table management software that needs extra hardware, like an iPad, a kiosk, or buzzers or pagers.
And that brings us to the last (and biggest) downside: A waitlist app only serves one purpose for your restaurant. Some of the most popular waitlist apps out there (from Yelp to Opentable to Waitlist Me, Hostme, Nextme, and Nowait) do one thing really well. But the bottom line is that they only do one thing.
As more and more technology tools emerge to solve common restaurant pain points, restaurant owners find themselves trying to navigate a sea of point solutions—apps and tools that each solve one problem. It’s not practical for a small restaurant to learn and use a dozen different apps and tools—and then there’s the issue of paying for all of them.
That brings us to the real question that many restaurant owners find themselves asking when considering a waitlist app.
Do You Really Need a Standalone Restaurant Waitlist App?
You have a POS. A CMS. A menu management platform. An email service. An SMS service. Social media. Third-party delivery apps. And now you need another app just for your waitlist?
Fortunately, no. You can get just one tool that can do all those things, and more.
Popmenu customers can now take advantage of a brand new waitlisting feature that allows them to:
- Add parties to a digital waitlist and designate their wait times.
- Create notes for each party detailing the party size and guests’ contact information.
- Easily communicate with guests on the waitlist via SMS messages, creating a better customer experience.
Popmenu’s waitlist feature uses color coding to help your host quickly see when guests need to be seated. You can also configure entries to the waitlist to include:
- Party name
- Party size
- Email contact
- Mobile phone contact
- Quoted wait time
- Any notes about the party, like whether they’re celebrating a special occasion.
Communicating with guests on the waitlist is as easy as clicking a party, selecting “notify,” and choosing one of three pre-built text messages to send them:
- Confirmation text to let guests know they’ve been added to the waitlist.
- “You’re Next” text to let guests know their party is next to be seated.
- “Table is Ready!” text to let guests know it’s time to eat.
Popmenu is the All-in-One Digital Toolkit Modern Restaurants Need
But unlike popular restaurant waitlist apps, Popmenu offers so much more functionality than just its waitlist features. Included in every Popmenu restaurant’s subscription is:
- Website design and management tools.
- A patented, dynamic online menu that encourages your guests to engage with your offerings.
- Marketing tools, including automated email and SMS marketing.
- QR codes, contactless menus, and direct payments.
- Direct online ordering and delivery.
The best part? Popmenu restaurant partners get all of that for convenient, flat, monthly pricing. Popmenu is truly an all-in-one solution for modern restaurants, allowing them to replace all those individual point solutions with one comprehensive toolkit that’s built just for restaurants.
Get Your Restaurant Waitlist App (and Every Other Tool You Need) With Popmenu
You can get a waitlist app. And a website builder. And marketing tools. And a delivery app. And so many other standalone restaurant tools.
Or you can just get Popmenu. Want to see how Popmenu can help your restaurant do it all in a digital world? Schedule a free demo today.