Yelp launches Nowait kiosks to trim restaurant wait times
- Yelp introduced Nowait Kiosks and a new feature called On My Way Thursday. The new kiosks digitize the waitlist clipboard, allowing the host to focus on customer service, according to Yelp. Diners add themselves to a restaurant’s queue upon arrival and receive updates about their table through their phone. The kiosks are available in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.
- The On My Way feature allows diners to let a business know that they’re on their way via the Yelp app. This allows restaurants to manage traffic rushes. On My Way is in test phase and is now available in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
- Nowait was founded in 2010. Yelp acquired the company in 2017 for $40 million.
The pain point of waiting for a table is the impetus behind Nowait. Founder Robb Myer created the company after waiting 45 minutes for brunch one morning. Since then, Nowait has saved diners more than 4.1 billion minutes of wait time to date, according to Yelp.
It’s no secret that today’s consumers don’t like to wait. A 2017 customer survey found that almost two-thirds of consumers said they are willing to wait 2 minutes or less, while 13% said no wait time is acceptable. A 2014 American Express survey found that the maximum amount of time customers are willing to wait is 13 minutes.
Cutting down that wait time not only benefits more than just consumers, too. MarketWatch reported that “some major restaurant operators could be losing up to $1 million in sales each week as guests leave because of wait-time frustrations.” In other words, waitlist management technology is a win-win.
Diego Perez, a manager at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco, told Eater that Nowait made it "easier to communicate with guests,” and that the process opened up extra seating and boosted revenue.
Yelp also claims the new features are driving “incredible” foot traffic. While many companies reported higher sales and tickets in their Q3 reports, those same companies also admitted a loss in traffic as competition across the industry intensifies, so this technology could be a significant asset.
With rising labor costs also a major challenge throughout the industry, full-service restaurants wouldn't have to hire a dedicated host or have a host on the schedule during certain times because of the kiosk.
That doesn’t mean the feature is completely without its challenges, however. While kiosk technology is a natural iteration of Nowait that started as a text message system, the jury’s still out on how customers really feel about kiosks. A poll conducted by MSN found that 78% of customers are less likely to go into a restaurant that has a self-service kiosk.
Finally, there’s the human connection piece. A host often provides the restaurant’s first impression and guidance. Without that personal “check in,” will fine dining experiences be compromised? Perhaps. But if the choice comes down to a friendly greeting or more time to spend at the table actually enjoying the experience, chances are busy consumers will choose time.
Follow Alicia Kelso on Twitter