Wish Waiting for a Table Was Less Painful? There’s an App for That. [Entrepreneur.com]

When Taiwanese restaurant chain Din Tai Fung needed a more efficient way to manage the hourlong waits for tables at its U.S. locations, it turned to mobile tool NoWait. “Our locations seat as many as 2,000 guests a day,” says Aaron Yang, partner and operations manager for Din Tai Fung USA. “NoWait has become essential to help us, and we’ve gotten very positive feedback from both hosts and guests. We’re definitely seeing a decrease in wait time.”

The dumpling specialist, which has locations in 10 countries, is now using NoWait in all six of its U.S. restaurants.

Robb Myer conceived NoWait after one too many holdups at his favorite eateries. Formerly a director at an employee-benefits and consumer-health company, Myer teamed up in 2010 with developers James Belt and Richard Colvin and marketer Luke Panza to launch their NoWait host app for the iPad, which moves traditional restaurant wait lists from paper to tablet.

Arriving customers provide the restaurant host with a cell number and receive a text message confirming their spot on the wait list. When their tables are ready, customers are notified by another text; the setup gives them the freedom to leave while they wait, without having to carry a pager from the restaurant.

On the restaurant side, the service provides hosts with a running clock on each individual party, as well as a floor map of the establishment with progress bars that indicate when tables will open up. At the end of each day, NoWait sends the restaurant manager an e-mail summary with analytics about seating totals, wait-time quote accuracy and the number of parties that left or were removed from the list.

Take a seat: NoWait's Robb Myer.

Take a seat: NoWait’s Robb Myer.
Photo © Billy Delfs

In February, Myer and his Pittsburgh-based team launched a free consumer-facing version of the app for iOS and Android that can be used to add a name to a list or to check wait times. It also has a “suggest a restaurant” feature that encourages diners to vote for eateries that should use the service. Within the first three months, the feature generated 80,000 votes for 13,000 U.S. restaurants.

NoWait says it is seating 5 million guests per month, up from 700,000 per month in 2012. Restaurants that use the system “can turn their tables faster and ultimately seat more guests,” Myer claims. “We see a 15 percent increase in revenue after the implementation of NoWait at a restaurant.”

NoWait is free for use by restaurants that seat up to 200 parties per month; the standard package covers 1,200 parties for $119 per month and includes additional features such as text-message customization, two-way texting and a wait-time predictor. An enterprise option, available for large clients, has been implemented by the Buffalo Wild Wings, First Watch and On The Border chains.

Next up for NoWait, which has received more than $15 million in funding from investors such as Birchmere Ventures and Drive Capital, is to expand beyond restaurants to markets such as doctors’ offices. Now that’s an innovation worth waiting for.