US startup seeks to liberate diners from queues

Jul 20, 2012 by Glenn Chapman
This file illustration photo shows a line stretching around the corner at Ben's Chili Bowl restaurant in Washington, DC. 'NoWait' app has spread to restaurants across the United States and into Canada and has been used to seat more than 3.3 million people since it launched in April of last year, according to one of its creators, Robb Myer.

Robb Myer cannot stomach the notion of being stuck at the entrance of a restaurant waiting for word that a table is finally available.

So he and some friends, tired of ricocheting between crowded eateries in a hip San Francisco neighborhood, came up with the idea for startup "NoWait" to take the agony out of queues.

"We are really trying to change the way you and I have to wait any place that has a line, and the first place is a casual dining restaurant," Myer said. "Global is definitely our goal."

Restaurant hosts or hostesses can enter mobile phone numbers of aspiring dinners into NoWait software tailored for Apple , iPhones and devices.

People then get text message updates regarding when tables will be ready and, if they have smartphones, can even access a website featuring animated characters that shows where they are in the food line.

NoWait has spread to restaurants across the United States and into Canada and has been used to seat more than 3.3 million people since it launched in April of last year, according to Myer.

Todd Sapet, managing partner of a Texas Roadhouse, uses NoWait in his franchise steak restaurant in Pennsylvania and said the reaction of guests is "Isn't this cool."

"They get a buzz out of the wizardry of it," Sapet said. "Then they start to realize the different places they go that rob them of their time by making them stand in lines."

Along with freeing would-be diners to wander away from restaurants, perhaps checking out neighboring shops or exploring neighborhoods, the NoWait service allows tables to be turned more efficiently, according to Sapet.

"Time spent arguing with a customer about how long they have been waiting is lost time when we could be selling them food and drinks and getting the table cleared and reset," Sapet said.

"We try not to rob people of their time and, quite frankly, we try to get their money in our pocket as soon as possible."

Opting for the tactic also eliminates the annoyance of loudspeakers blaring out the names of people who are waiting, complete with the occasional awkwardness of mispronunciation.

Some US restaurants give waiting patrons paging devices that buzz or blink when tables are ready but people sometimes take their time responding or wander out of pager range.

"We are going to put those buzzers to death," Myer vowed. "They are going to be on a shelf with your Sony Discman and your beepers from the 80s; they will be replaced with a smartphone."

NoWait provides restaurants deals on Apple gadgets, and Sapet estimated the up-front investment to be approximately $1,000.

The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based startup uses its servers to fire off text messages to people waiting and host the queue update website. Prices for the subscription service range from free to $200 monthly, according to Myer.

The company was built with seed funding from Carnegie Mellon University, where the two founders earned advanced degrees.

"We are revolutionizing the way people wait and get seated at casual dining, no-reservation restaurants," Myer said.

Explore further: Japan orders air bag maker to conduct probe

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Restaurants cherry pick parties by size

May 09, 2011

Wait times quoted by restaurants typically increase depending on the size of the party. Though large parties are often given longer wait times, the actual time spent waiting to be seated turns out to be shorter than the ...

Recommended for you

Japan orders air bag maker to conduct probe

Nov 21, 2014

Japan's transport ministry said Friday it has ordered air bag maker Takata to conduct an internal investigation after cases of its air bags exploding triggered safety concerns in the United States and other countries.

Senators get no clear answers on air bag safety

Nov 20, 2014

There were apologies and long-winded explanations, but after nearly four hours of testimony about exploding air bags, senators never got a clear answer to the question most people have: whether or not their ...

Winter-like temps can reduce tire pressure

Nov 19, 2014

The polar plunge that has chilled much of the nation does more than bring out ice scrapers and antifreeze. It can trigger vehicles' tire pressure monitoring systems overnight, sending nervous drivers to dealers ...

US: Gov't aircraft regulations apply to drones (Update)

Nov 18, 2014

The U.S. government has the power to hold drone operators accountable when they operate the remote-control aircraft recklessly, a federal safety board ruled Tuesday in a setback to small drone operators chafing ...

Mapping the crisis of displaced peoples

Nov 17, 2014

Population displacement is a global problem, one that historically has been insufficiently quantified and analyzed, especially given its wide-ranging effects. Displacement can result from a number of factors, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.