NoWait is rolling out its consumer app nationwide. The company has put 29 million diners into seats to date and claims that it reduces wait time from 90 minutes to 5 minutes.
NoWait started out as an iPad app for restaurants to manage their wait lists. Hosts could create and store wait lists online and notify customers with a text message when their table is ready. The system accepts walk-in and call-ahead diners, and it provides estimated wait times and analytics. It also has a visual floor plan for hosts to use while figuring out where to put people.
The company released a pilot of its consumer-facing app in September. The NoWait mobile app enables people to remotely add themselves to restaurant wait lists. From the app you can check out estimated wait times and see how many parties are ahead of you. It is now active in 42 markets and plans to add hundreds of additional restaurants a week.
Casual dining restaurants, many of which don’t accept reservations, are NoWait’s primary customers. The company said that nine times more restaurants don’t accept reservations than restaurants that do — 270,000 versus 30,000. It also said that last year, more than 12 million diners were served at restaurants that don’t take reservations, and 3 million had to wait for a table.
These types of restaurants make up a big part of the large industry, but long wait times deter customers and can cause frustration.
NoWait also has features to incentivize people to stay, rather than defecting to another spot. Through its SMS messaging system, restaurants can send a drink coupon, propose an appetizer, or tell diners about a daily special while they wait. They can also keep regular customers updated on special events or changes.
Participating business include national chains like Chili’s and TGI Fridays as well as independent spots like chefs Jose Garces’ Village Whiskey, Marc Vetri’s Pizzeria Vetri, and Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar.
The long-term vision is to extend beyond restaurants into doctors offices, DMVs, beauty salons, and so on.
NoWait is based in Pittsburgh. It has $2 million in backing from Birchmere Ventures, Sand Hill Angels, and Innovation Works (IW). The app was built with seed funding from IW’s AlphaLab Tech Accelerator and Carnegie Mellon University Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund.