Too many Delivery Drivers at your restaurant's door? There’s an easy fix.

How Waitlist Management Apps and Virtual Waiting Rooms Help Delivery Run Seamlessly

Overwhelmed with Third Party Delivery Apps?

You’re not alone. Even Restaurant Week is takeout-only this year. The push for delivery was starting to emerge pre-pandemic but this last year has accelerated that pace significantly. This increased demand for delivery has created a third-party delivery company boom. And created a new set of challenges for the restaurant industry.

Without getting into commission fees, the increased demand for delivery apps has made the pickup process increasingly hard for restaurants to manage. There are over 10 (and counting) major delivery apps out there. If a restaurant is accepting orders (willingly or not) from these companies, several delivery drivers from different companies are often coming by at peak hours to pick up orders. 

How can you manage this chaos?  

Restaurants and tech companies (not the delivery app ones) are finding creative solutions to adapt to this new environment. Waitlist management apps have come out with new features like Self Check-In options and Virtual Waiting Rooms . These awesome features, however, are primarily used to manage the customer intake process. Self-Check-In features provide safe and easy options for the guest to check in. And Virtual Waiting Rooms keep guests informed and engaged during their wait. Both reduce negative reviews, build brand image and most importantly, increase efficiency. Can Self Check-Ins and Virtual Waiting Rooms be used with delivery drivers, you ask?

It’s Simple: Use NextME’s waitlist management app for your delivery drivers.

Step 1. Delivery drivers check themselves in when they arrive for the order using either a QR code posted outside or by clicking on a simple link sent to them in the automated message through the third party delivery app.

Step 2. They fill out your custom intake form, including their mobile number, third party delivery company, order number, or anything else you would like to include.

Step 3. Delivery drivers wait in their cars instead of in a cluster around your door. While they wait, they enter your Virtual Waiting Room, learning about your pickup processes and are updated of their spot in line. 

Step 4. Once the order is ready, the driver is simply notified with a second text to come pick up their order. 

And using NextME’s filtering features, you can separate your delivery drivers by company into separate queues for better organization. You can even add “order number” and “customer name” fields into the custom intake form to maximize your pickup process. At last, your staff can breathe a sigh of relief. 

A Solution for Restaurants Big and Small

NextME’s waitlist system is being used to manage delivery drivers at restaurants big and small across North America. A Jet's Pizza Franchise, located in Ohio, recently implemented NextME at their business. Since then, they have effectively organized and streamlined their pickup process. Request a demo or give us a call at (877) 639-8631 for more info!


Small Business Spotlight - Gaslight Diner

Most of the restaurants we love are small businesses. And the Covid pandemic has created a ton of problems for the restaurant industry this year. With some restaurants proving to be less-than ideal for this new culinary landscape, experienced restaurateurs have shifted their focus, rebranded, and incorporated tech to better meet the needs of their customers. In the case of Seth Boone and his team in Louisville, they did just that.  

With a retro diner aesthetic and a savvy online presence, Gaslight Diner opened in mid-November to better meet the breakfast-food cravings of their neighborhood. And they’re serious about engaging with their community. Seth Boone has placed a strong emphasis on customer relations and service throughout Gaslight. For one, he’s made checking-in as easy as possible for his guests. After placing NextMe’s Widget on his site, Seth’s customers don’t have to wait in line or out in the cold Louisville winters. His guests can now check-in and wait for their table in their cars. They can even take a nice, socially-distant walk around town while they wait. It doesn’t really matter where they go. What matters is his guests don’t have to wait in line. And that is something that customers remember. 

 

Always building on their customer base, Gaslight uses NextMe’s Virtual Waiting room to boost and drive engagement. While waiting for a table, guests can now browse their updated menus, promotions and visit their social media. They’re also updated with their spot in line so everyone stays calm and collected. 

If you dine at Gaslight Diner (which we hope you do if you’re ever in the great city of Louisville), you can enjoy a virtual check in experience compliments of NextME (and Seth).


5 Ways to Prep Your Retail Store for the Pandemic Holiday Season - NextME Queue Management App

5 Ways to Prep Your Retail Store for the Pandemic Holiday Season

The ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic is creating numerous conundrums for retailers during the busiest time of the year - the holiday season. As individuals try to cope with the consequences of a Pandemic Holiday - Halloween without trick-or-treaters, Thanksgiving without large gatherings, and December without parties - retailers are struggling to determine how to turn a profit during Black Friday and the holiday season without encouraging large in-person crowds. Fortunately, technology can help. Below is a list of five actions retailers can take to keep shoppers safe and spending money during this crucial time of year.

5 Ways to Prep Your Retail Store for the Pandemic Holiday Season - NextME Virtual Waitlist AppHow to Prepare for the Holiday Shopping Season in the Time of COVID-19

Eliminate crowded waiting rooms and long lines without forcing customers to wait outside in the cold

5 Ways to Prep Your Retail Store for the Pandemic Holiday Season - NextME Online Waitlist AppRetailers are faced with a catch-22 this year. Due to social distancing capacity limitations, you can't allow large crowds in your stores. However, sending people outside to wait in the cold for an indeterminate amount of time is as good as sending them to your competitors that don't have long waits. How do stores eliminate long lines without turning customers away, or losing them? One of the best ways to do this is by utilizing a virtual waitlist platform, such as NextME, that allows customers to join the waitlist either at your store (in-person or by scanning a QR code) or online from your site before they arrive. This system can then text notify patrons where they are in line, thus allowing them to wait wherever and however they want. No need to wait in the snow in a queue, or even arrive at the store before their turn.

Keep track of customers while serving at limited capacity

As stated above, sending a customer outside to wait in the cold is as good as sending them to another store. The key to making limited capacity work is to effectively keep track of and communicate with your customers who are waiting their turn to enter your shop. NextME's SMS-based platform provides a number of ways to communicate with and keep tabs on your guests. Specifically, the platform automatically texts them important updates, and also gives them access to a virtual waiting room (discussed in more detail below) that provides more general updates. You also can easily filter your waitlist by curbside pick-up versus in-person customers and tailor your messaging to each group. Finally, NextME makes it easy for you to export customer data for COVID tracing purposes.

Make use of virtual waiting rooms to engage with customers

NextME's virtual waiting room is a great tool for filling some of the customer service void that's been created by COVID's social distancing protocols. Retailers can customize their virtual waiting rooms however they want. For example, a great use for this feature is to answer common questions guests have, such as: Are your most popular products in stock? Where to find the more popular products in your store? What discounts and specials are you running? By making effective use of the virtual waiting room, you keep guests informed, happy, and safe.

Allow for online shopping and ordering ahead

5 Ways to Prep Your Retail Store for the Pandemic Holiday Season - NextME Waitlist App

The internet is a magical thing. If your online ordering and shopping system is really streamlined and effective, you may be able to make your holiday profits without a single customer entering your store. Creating a stellar online shopping experience goes beyond building a great eCommerce site (although this is a critical first step). You also need to effectively enable curbside pickup and mobile ordering / communication. Again, NextME to the rescue. Our platform seamlessly integrates the entire process of a customer browsing and ordering online for in-store or curbside pick-up, then receiving SMS updates to let them know when to pick up their order. They can even check their position in line in real-time from their phones!

Use technology to improve operational efficiency and throughput

One of the few silver linings of the Coronavirus Pandemic is that it has given businesses an opportunity to streamline their operations and improve efficiency. And the more efficient you are, the easier it is to follow social distancing guidelines. This is where NextME really excels. Our platform is proven to increase guest throughput and help clients retain up to 35% more customers. One key to this is displaying accurate wait times, which reduces the number of calls from customers asking how long the wait is. Another important aspect is our predictive analytics, which help clients staff effectively during the busiest times of the day.

 


5 Marketing Tips for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist App

5 Marketing Tips for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

5 Marketing Tips for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist App

The following post is from a guest contributor. 

Are you managing a business that recently reopened or made major changes in operations due to COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns? If so, then a lot about the way you’ve typically done business has been flipped on its head. Still, it’s important that even while you’re working to make sure that your overall operations are still running smoothly, you’re effectively marketing your business and ensuring future growth. Here’s how your business can reach new and existing customers during the pandemic. 

Marketing Tips for Businesses Impacted by the Coronavirus

Understand Changing Customer Needs 

With unemployment still high, many consumers have shifted their purchase habits. However, it’s important to remember that different customers react to economic downturn differently. While some groups are cutting their spending significantly, others are making purchases as they would in normal times. 

To better focus your marketing efforts, it’s important to recognize which demographic groups your business is serving. To do this, take surveys of your customer base to get a better idea of how their spending habits have shifted in recent months. You can then tailor your messaging to better serve their needs. For example, if you see that a majority of your customers are willing to maintain spending levels on purchases they deem “essential”, you can tailor your marketing messages to emphasize why your services are essential. 

Leverage Text Messaging 

In uncertain times like these, it’s important to connect with your existing customers so they understand everything that’s happening with your business. Right now, the best way to do this is through text messaging. Studies show that text messaging has a stunning open rate of 98% compared to just 31% for email. 

There are several ways that you can leverage text messaging. You can use texting to send relevant deals and offers, update customers about your business operations, or send appointment or delivery reminders. 

Collect Online Reviews 

When customers do a Google search for your business, one of the first things that they’ll see is your online reviews. Because of this, reviews can help boost all of your other marketing efforts. Whether a customer hears about you through print, radio, or a Facebook ad they are likely to Google you and see what other customers are saying about you. 

To make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward to customers, implement an online reputation management strategy and make an effort to solicit reviews from your customers. You can make the process easy for customers by sending requests through texts and email that link directly to your profiles on review sites. That way, all your customers have to do is click a link and leave a review.

Change Your Listings 

Most businesses have gone through significant operational changes in the past few months. Of course, many loyal customers may simply be unaware of these changes because they’ve had their own life issues to deal with. It’s important that you give them the information they need to re-engage with your business when they’re ready. 

If you’ve recently reopened your business locations or taken additional steps to protect customer safety, you should update your listings on sites like Google My Business and other business listings sites. That way, customers searching your business can see right away the changes in your business operations and understand the steps that you are taking to keep them safe. 

Leverage Social Media 

With more people spending more time indoors, customers are more likely to be scrolling through Facebook or looking at their Twitter. That means it’s even more important for your business to leverage social media. 

Try to post relevant content that speaks to some of the concerns that your customers might be experiencing. For example, this Instagram post by Nature’s Bakery showed some fun activities that customers could do while at home with their families. 

 

5 Marketing Tips for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 - Leverage Social Media - NextME Virtual Waitlist App

If you’re a smaller team or you don’t feel like you have the resources to leverage social, don’t worry. You can still have a successful social media strategy on a smaller scale. Try to focus on one platform where you feel that your target audience spends the most time. 

In Conclusion 

Marketing your business during normal times is tough. Standing out from the competition in uncertain times like these is even more difficult. But with the right strategy, your business can be the obvious choice in the area. 


Guide to Making Cannabis Dispensaries Safer During COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist App

A Guide to Making Cannabis Dispensaries Safer During COVID-19

Guide to Making Cannabis Dispensaries Safer During COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist App

Cannabis dispensaries have occupied a unique niche throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. People have made it clear that they consider them essential businesses, even when politicians have tried to define them otherwise. Be it from ‘panic buying’ as stay-at-home orders went into effect, or record sales as the orders were extended, demand for medical and recreational marijuana is booming and is expected to reach 37 billion in revenue by 2024

Because of this, it’s imperative that dispensaries continue to evaluate and evolve their safety measures. This is particularly important for the estimated 3 million people in the US who are dependent on medical marijuana, as a large percentage of this population has compromised immune systems.

To help with these efforts, we’ve created a guide to providing a safer shopping experience in cannabis dispensaries during COVID-19.

How to Make Your Cannabis Dispensary Safer During COVID-19

#1 Make Use of Virtual Waitlist Software that Allows for Contactless Check-in 

The days of shopping worry-free for necessities and amenities may feel like they’re in the past, but businesses are helping make them a reality once again with additional precautions, such as the use of digital appointment systems or virtual waitlist software. Digital appointment systems provide an online platform that shoppers can use to schedule an appointment prior to their arrival so they receive same-day service on a first-come first-served basis. They also help business owners gain insights into their day-to-day operations so they can streamline their staffing requirements and prepare for a safer environment from open to close. 

At NextME, we’ve taken our software one step further than appointment platforms. Our virtual waitlist software is a new category of service that helps cannabis dispensaries stay connected to their guests at all times through text communications and engagement with your store’s website. It enables more flexibility in scheduling, the ability to communicate real-time status so your customers feel seen and acknowledged, a platform that you can use to advertise new products or educate your clientele about your new waitlist process, and it allows for curbside pick-up for those that feel safer staying in their cars.

Guide to Making Cannabis Dispensaries Safer COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist App - Enable Virtual Waiting Rooms and Contactless Check-in

Here’s how it works. Upon arrival, customers can either check-in and join the waitlist from their phones via your store’s website, or by scanning a customized QR code at your storefront. Both options allow for contactless check-in that can either be completed online or while standing at a safe distance outside your store. While waiting in their cars or outside, they can use the virtual waiting room to see their position in line and interact with your store’s online content. As soon as it’s safe for guests to enter or it’s their turn in line, they receive a text message notification. Same thing applies for those that prefer curbside pick-up.

Already have a preferred appointment system? No problem. NextME’s online waitlist can easily work as an added feature in conjunction with your existing system. As an added bonus, since our platform is SMS-based, your guests don’t need to download a separate app to use it! 

#2 Use Virtual Waiting Rooms to Communicate with Customers

Signage may be one of the oldest forms of advertising, but it’s still one of the most beneficial - especially when it’s digital. Dispensaries can use NextMe’s guest engagement page to communicate more than just the waitlist and check-in process to clientele. Specifically, you can use it to make up for the lack of customer-employee interaction that’s required by COVID-19’s enhanced safety protocols. For example, you could use our engagement page to: 

  • Outline your new waitlist and check-in process
  • Showcase products that help with certain ailments; 
  • Educate your customers on medical marijuana benefits; or 
  • Relate to your clientele with patient success stories. 

Strategically-implemented digital signage will let your customers know you’re there for and with them during these trying times, and can help make up for a lack of face-to-face interaction with your employees. 

#3 Employ Social Distancing Inside and Out

Social distancing is our new reality and several practices can be implemented to create more space for guests as they engage with your business. Due to the sensitivity of health concerns and the privacy of containing individual’s medical information, many cannabis dispensaries already restrict the number of customers within their retail store with physical waiting rooms, and upon entry they use aisle markers to section off the flow of traffic to well spaced out checkout stations. They also tend to utilize touchless surfaces to showcase their products and/or contain the bulk of what customers buy in a separate storage space. If you haven’t already implemented these practices, now is a good time to do so. 

In addition if your store is limited in square footage, please factor that into how many people you allow in at the same time. Offering curbside pickup is an excellent solution to remedy the situation in a responsible way. 

Guide to Making Cannabis Dispensaries Safer During COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist App

Lastly, another form of a physical barrier that is globally becoming well known during COVID-19 is a face covering or mask. Encourage and require both your customers and employees to wear face coverings while interacting within and around your cannabis dispensary. You can even utilize NextME’s text messaging system to let those waiting in their cars know when your staff will be delivering products so they can reapply their mask if needed. This will help protect everyone against the spread of potentially infectious germs, and is in alliance with the CDC safety guidelines

The keys to making cannabis dispensaries safer during COVID-19 are effective communication and a welcoming environment.

The keys to making your dispensary safer during COVID-19 are effective communication, which NextME’s waitlist software encourages, and a welcoming environment that offers a variety of purchasing options. Using our technology allows you to minimize crowds within your store to improve your guests' overall experiences, strategically implement digital signage which helps make up for a lack of customer-employee interaction, and receive real-time data that shows actual wait times and customer retention rates. When these tools are combined with valuable social distancing protocols, face masks, and the option of curbside pick-up, your customers will feel connected and confident enough to keep coming back. 

If you’re interested in learning how NextME’s virtual tools can help your dispensary operate safely and efficiently during the COVID pandemic and beyond, follow this link to reach out. Together we can make the difference in your clients’ new shopping experience.


NextME Virtual Waitlist App Official Partner for Dine Out West Lakeview Chicago, IL

How Virtual Waitlists Can Help Reopen the Economy During COVID-19

Businesses are reopening, but how can we encourage customers to come back safely during COVID-19?

We are in need of individual and economic healing

Coronavirus case numbers have been rising in more than 20 states, and businesses that have reopened at limited capacity are hobbling along in hopes that both the public and the economy will recover from this detrimental blow. With recent news of increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in states like Arizona, Texas, and Florida, how can we create space for healing so people are confident enough to leave their homes and businesses are safely catering to their much needed arrival? 

NextME has a solution that’s safe, smart, and step-by-step 

NextME's online waitlist system helps consumers not only feel safe, but be safe as they return to their favorite restaurants and stores. Our smart approach eases traffic, enables contactless check-in options, eliminates crowded waiting rooms, and helps businesses follow the CDC’s guidelines on social distancing. With an easy-to-use step-by-step platform that utilizes a virtual waiting room, both customers and businesses can communicate real-time status with real-time results. 

Feel safe, be safe using a virtual waitlist 

It’s 4pm and you’re starting to think about what you want for dinner. Your mind begins to process different options when it lands on a Cubano wrap from the brewery 5 blocks away. From that point on, you can’t think of anything but the ham, pulled pork, and perfectly pickled delicacy that pairs so well with an amber beer. If only you could go knowing that 1) the brewery is practicing safe measures to minimize any risks you may be exposed to, 2) you can maintain social distancing throughout the entire experience, and 3) you won’t have to wait an unknown amount of time until you can sit to enjoy your meal. 

NextME Virtual Waitlist Keeps Customers Safe During COVID

Many people are just learning about NextME’s virtual waitlist app, and they are starting to associate it with a positive step in the right direction. When they see that they can sign in to a virtual waiting room and utilize contactless check-in features prior to arrival, they know that the business they are going to cares about their health and well-being without shutting their doors. Taking precautions that nurture the ability to maintain social distance until it’s time to enter the facility, while also communicating real-time status via the virtual platform, is proving to be beneficial to every party involved. These simple yet innovative web-based solutions help people feel safe and be safe when returning to their favorite businesses. 

Virtual waiting rooms keep guests engaged even when face-to-face communication is limited

Every last Friday of the month for the past few years, you get together with a small group of your best friends. In the past your group would meet at a local diner or spend the afternoon browsing your favorite storefronts, but this month is different and it’s been awhile since you’ve all gotten together. Now that some places are open, you’ve decided to make it happen and meet at a restaurant downtown. Beyond the challenge of making the decision to go, you're all still a little uneasy. You have no idea what's open and whether or not you'll all be able to be served. If only there was a way to know more...

NextME Virtual Waitlist - Smart virtual solutions that keep guests engaged

NextME’s virtual tools provide restaurants, hospitals, retail stores, and other businesses a smart solution as they invite guests to return without compromising their well-being. The virtual waiting room provides guests easy access to the queue management process and up-to-date content so they stay informed. It's a great way to make up for the lack of customer-employee interaction that’s required by COVID-19’s enhanced safety protocols. By removing the element of uncertainty, businesses and organizations can provide the best experience possible to their guests while also keeping them engaged. 

Step by step, supporting communities in need

You and your local community are suffering during this time period that some are calling “the most severe economic contraction since the Great Depression.” What can you do to help? What can you do to support your neighboring businesses while also following national guidelines? How can you avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowds, and close contact with others yet still be an active member of society?

Dine Out West Lakeview in Chicago, Illinois is a prime example of how communities and businesses are working together to answer these very important questions. And they are doing it with NextME’s help. The Friends of Lakeview, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working with the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, is helping create outdoor dining rooms that will be shared by multiple local restaurants. The program will allow diners to enjoy food and alcoholic beverages from local restaurants in open air settings, while also using NextME’s virtual app to mitigate the crowds. 

NextME Virtual Waitlist App Official Partner for Dine Out West Lakeview Chicago, IL

NextME’s virtual app is both practical and informative. In the case of Dine Out West Lakeview, customers will be able to access important information about their community and learn more ways they can help, donate, or support specific causes while waiting within the virtual waiting room. With the ability to stay engaged, learn more, and click on ways to help, people will feel more connected to each other and the places they live. We all need resources and a sense of connection to survive, and together both individuals and businesses are finding ways to make sure those aspects are not lost within their valuable communities.

Be part of a success story

We all want to be part of a success story, and by joining NextME you’ll do precisely that. NextME has grown 1,102% since the start of the pandemic by helping reopen the economy and protecting people’s lives in the process. To continue the momentum, we are offering a referral program that gives individuals - such as yourself - the opportunity to spread the word. Learn more about our referral program so you can help create safe, smart, and step-by-step solutions for your community.  

 


A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19

As the nation’s economy reopens, it’s time for your retail business to do the same. And NextME can help make that transition smooth and easy. With guidelines that vary from state to state and a long list of to-dos, it may feel overwhelming. We’ve simplified the process with this step-by-step guide to help your business reopen with confidence during COVID-19. 

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Waitlist AppTips on Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19, and Essential Tools that Can Help

#1 Use a Digital Reservation System

Space is of essence during social distancing, yet we are all craving a bit of normalcy and the opportunity to shop at our favorite stores. To make this possible during COVID-19, retail stores can now turn to technology and implement a digital reservation system  to help control their customer intake process. 

Welcome your guests with a reservation and/or appointment. Let them know you’re taking their health and well-being seriously by minimizing crowds and maximizing their shopping experience. Gain insights into your day-to-day operations so you can spread out customer visits, streamline your staffing requirements, and prepare for a safer environment from open to close. Although this form of preparation may be newer to retail stores, it’s proving to be successful in other industries, such as the restaurant and healthcare spaces, during this transition into the ‘new normal.’ 

#2 Make Use of Virtual Waitlist Software and Virtual Waiting Rooms that Enable Contactless Check-In

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist Software and Virtual Waiting Rooms

At NextME, we’ve taken our software one step further than reservation platforms. Our virtual waitlist software is a new category of service that helps retail stores and other organizations stay connected to their guests at all times, thus enabling flexibility in scheduling. Unlike digital reservation systems, NextME doesn’t create expectations that customers are entitled to a specific appointment time. Rather, they're joining a virtual waitlist for same day service on a first-come first-served basis. This gives you more flexibility on when to text notify your guests to check in one-by-one versus having guests walk in assuming they're ready to be serviced. 

NextME enables contactless check-in for guests. This can be accomplished via your store's website through a customized widget, or by scanning a specialized QR code placed on your storefront. While waiting within their cars or outside, they can use NextME’s virtual waiting room to see their position in line or interact with your store’s online content. Whether you have a hot item that people want to purchase, or your store is regularly at capacity, NextME’s virtual waitlist software gives you the chance to communicate real-time status to ensure your customers never arrive disappointed! As soon as it’s safe for guests to enter, they receive a text message notification. The waitlist functions on a first-come first-served basis, yet is designed to offer same-day service. 

Already have a preferred appointment or reservation system? No problem. NextME’s virtual waitlist can easily work as an added feature in conjunction with your existing system. As an added bonus, since our platform is SMS-based, your guests don’t need to download a separate app to use it! 

#3 Establish Regular Employee Health Screening

Healthy businesses start with healthy employees. By establishing regular employee health screening before each shift, you can support the overall well-being of your staff and clientele. 

Ask your employees how they are doing. Check in with whether or not they have been feeling even the slightest bit ill lately. Encourage them to take their temperature or screen for symptoms prior to entering the premises. This will let them know you care about their well-being, while also giving them the confidence to be honest with their current state. Set the example and be dedicated to keeping everyone safe as you reopen your retail store. 

#4 Restructure Space to Allow for Social Distancing

Social distancing is our new reality and can be encouraged by restructuring your retail space to create healthy boundaries. Whether you move all the furniture, space out the clothing racks, or mark the floors with tape to specify a safe distance and flow of traffic, your customers will notice your responsible efforts. 

Physical barriers are one of the easiest ways to assure social distancing, however you still want people to move freely around your store. Mark designated browsing spaces for customers that are 6 feet apart and place arrows on the floor that follow a one-way route. Since many grocery stores have already started implementing these practices they won’t feel too restrictive or odd to your customers. Instead many will appreciate the safe direction. 

#5 Require Face Coverings for Employees and Customers

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Waitlist AppAnother form of a physical barrier that is incredibly important is a face covering or mask. Require both your customers and employees to wear face coverings while within your store. This will help protect everyone against the spread of potentially infectious germs and is in alliance with the CDC safety guidelines

#6 Implement Accessible and Frequent Sanitation Procedures

Lastly, implement accessible and frequent sanitation procedures to keep your business safe. Set up sanitation stations upon entry and throughout your store to encourage their use. Instruct your employees to pay special attention to high traffic areas and commonly used surfaces so they can disinfect them regularly throughout the day. Sanitize equipment between each use. These somewhat small practices will have a positive effect on your customers’ experiences while also encouraging businesses such as yours to remain open.  

The key to reopening your retail store during COVID-19 is effective communication and creation of a welcoming environment.

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Waitlist App

The key to reopening during COVID-19 is making sure your business is a welcoming and safe space for all. Utilizing new virtual tools, such as NextME’s waitlist software, will help eliminate crowded waiting rooms, enable contactless check-in and virtual communication, improve your customers’ experiences, and provide you important insights around actual wait times and guest retention rates using real-time data. Establishing regular employee health screening will support necessary safety measures. Restructuring your space will prevent overcrowding and promote healthy boundaries. Requiring face coverings will protect everyone. Implementing accessible and frequent sanitation procedures will give both your staff and clientele the confidence to keep coming back. 

If you’re interested in learning how NextME’s virtual tools can help your store operate safely and efficiently during the COVID pandemic and beyond, follow this link to reach out. Together we can make the difference in your clients’ new shopping experience. 


6 Tips for Reopening Your Restaurant During COVID-19

As the nation begins to reopen following months of lockdown, people are itching to get back to their favorite restaurants. Welcoming customers back into your establishment might seem overwhelming with the stringent yet varying guidelines being provided for restaurant owners in each state. But there are steps you can take to help your restaurant reopen safely. 

6 Tips on Reopening Your Restaurant During COVID-19, and Essential Tools that Can Help

#1 Practice Social Distancing in Dining Areas

We’ve all been practicing social distancing in our neighborhoods to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Many of the practices we’ve adopted will need to be extended into your newly reopened dining rooms. To start, tables should be placed at least six feet apart in both indoor and outdoor spaces to minimize customer contact. When the room allows it, using physical barriers between tables can also help ensure social distancing is being upheld. Since most restaurants are reopening with limited capacity, these reorganizations of dining areas should be easier to achieve than they would have been just a few months ago. 

#2 Implement Virtual Waitlists and Virtual Waiting Rooms that Enable Contactless Check-In

Implement Virtual Waiting Rooms for COVID Restaurant Reopening - NextME

Like dining rooms, waiting areas create social distancing challenges. NextME can help alleviate this strain via our virtual waiting room and contactless check-in functionality. By simply embedding a customizable widget on your site, customers can join your waitlist directly from your site without ever setting foot on your premises. Alternatively, customers walking by can join the waitlist by scanning a customized QR code with their phones. And if you’re worried that diners will join the waitlist from too far away, you can implement geo barriers so guests can only join from within a certain area. This service can be leveraged for dine-in, curbside pickup, and carryout. Guests simply join virtually, wait wherever and however they want, and then head to your restaurant upon receiving a text that their table or order is ready for carryout.  It’s easy to tag customers in the system as either 'dine-in' or 'curbside' - and you can even switch between the two tags when needed to keep track of each customer’s reason for visit.  

What really sets NextME’s virtual waiting room apart is our guest engagement platform that allows you to display custom messaging and content to customers wherever they’re waiting - be it in their cars, in the restaurant, or on the sidewalk. This is a great way to make up for the limited customer-employee interaction that's required by COVID-19's enhanced safety protocols. 

#3 Utilize Outdoor Spaces As Much As Possible

There’s less chance of spreading COVID in outdoor spaces with open air. Reopening during the summer months means it’s the perfect time to lean heavily on patio space and open roofs, making them the most-used areas of your restaurant. To help with this, many cities and neighborhoods are closing down roads and sidewalks to open up additional seating for dining.

 

Utilize Outdoor Space for Restaurant Reopening COVID - NextME - Virtual Waiting Rooms and Waitlists

NextME’s SMS system is here to help you make the most of this newly apportioned outdoor space. Our text-based system is easy to use, and doesn’t require diners to download a separate app. Restaurants across the US are leveraging it for curbside pickups, carryout, and cocktails-to-go. You can even use our system to text delivery drivers when to check-in one-by-one to pick up their deliveries. The SMS system also allows customers to walk around the neighborhood or sit in their cars while they’re waiting for a table, as opposed to crowding the bar or waiting area.

Southport Grocery & Cafe in Chicago knows first-hand what a difference NextME can make in easing the customer experience. After experiencing bad reviews regarding long wait times, the popular brunch location revamped their waiting system with NextME to provide diners with accurate wait times and personal communication catered to their specific needs. 

#4 Use a Digital System that Enables Easy Contact Tracing

Use a Digital System that Enables Easy Contact Tracing - NextME Virtual Waitlist and Waiting Rooms - COVID

One of the newest ways restaurants are assisting in limiting the spread of COVID is through contact tracing. Many cities and states are asking restaurants that offer table seating to log customers’ contact information when they dine-in, which in turn will help trace people who have come in contact with the Coronavirus. NextME can help facilitate the secure and safe collection of customer contact information. Using our virtual waitlist technology, customers can easily check-in online by adding their contact information, thus helping your business collect the data needed to follow each state's contact tracing policies.  

#5 Require Masks and Provide Hand Sanitizer

After getting customers into your restaurant and seated safely, providing hand sanitizer and requiring both employees and patrons to wear masks when they aren’t at their tables will help limit the spread of any dangerous germs. Be sure masks worn by employees abide by the CDC safety guidelines

#6 Institute Employee Health Checks

Lastly, employee health checks can help ensure your workers and customers are entering the safest environment possible. Take employees’ temperatures before they start a shift. Encourage employees to stay home if they are feeling sick. You can even provide additional sick days and shift flexibility to ensure your employees feel comfortable taking the time they need if they’re feeling ill. 

Institute Employee Health Checks COVID Restaurant Reopening - NextME Virtual Waitlist Waiting Rooms

Effective communication and creation of a safe, welcoming environment is the key to reopening safely in the midst of the COVID pandemic. 

And staying safe means eliminating overcrowding in dining rooms and waiting areas. NextME's suite of virtual tools can help by enabling contactless check-in, SMS-based waitlists, and virtual waiting rooms that display your customized content and information to guests as they wait. No need for diners to download a separate app. No need for guests to arrive until the minute their table or orders are ready, or for delivery drivers to crowd your entrance waiting for orders. If you want to learn more about virtualizing and optimizing your dine-in, curbside, and carryout processes, reach out.


How to Reduce Waiting Room Crowding and Limit the Spread of Illness During COVID-19

How To: Reduce Waiting Room Crowding and Limit the Spread of Illness During COVID-19: NextME Digital Waitlist App

Long wait times can hinder customer experience across a number of industries - from food services, to retail stores, to medical offices. However, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the potentially negative effects and dangers of overly crowded hospital waiting rooms and long wait times beyond an inconvenient patient experience. Specifically, they can increase the spread of illness to waiting patients and working staff. Similarly, long wait times create delays in treatment for the severely ill or injured patients - these scenarios can result in an increased risk of death for emergency departments. 

Guidelines for Reducing Waiting Room Crowding and Limiting the Spread of Disease

How To: Reduce Waiting Room Crowding and Limit the Spread of Illness During COVID-19: NextME Digital Waitlist App

With the increased risk that our current landscape brings, the OHSU School of Medicine has developed a set of guidelines to help reduce overcrowding and long wait times in emergency departments in order to improve patient experience and eliminate delayed patient care. Although these guidelines were made for emergency departments, they can be extended to cover waiting rooms across various clinics and physicians’ offices. Through interviewing top performing hospitals, OHSU School of Medicine narrowed down four Ways to reduce waiting room crowding, thus improving patient care. 

Support and Involvement of Medical Clinic Executives

First, a hospital or clinic must have strong support and involvement of their executive leadership teams. Cultural shifts happen from the top down and it’s imperative that leadership stands behind decisions made to keep waiting patients safe. Executives also control funding shifts and can set large projects in motion. 

Coordination and Involvement of All Medical Clinic Staff Members

Moving down the chain of command, a second way for hospitals to lessen patient wait times is for hospital care coordination to occur through the involvement of all staff members. For example, involving all staff members in the turnover process so multiple tasks can be done at once can open up more beds sooner for waiting patients.  

Use Predictive Analytics to Forecast Wait Times in Medical Clinics

NextME Predictive Analytics to Forecast Wait Times in Medical Clinics

Third, medical offices can leverage predictive analytics to forecast high traffic times and adjust their staff and practices accordingly. This can seem daunting and complicated for many local offices, but NextME is here to make it easy. Not only can NextME provide a digital waitlist and waiting room system to limit the number of patients physically waiting together, our predictive analytics help medical clinics analyze their existing practices. This includes quoting wait times for patients and determining how to adjust to make the process more efficient and seamless. NextME has already helped Mid City Pediatrics, a physician's clinic in Louisiana, to improve their waiting room process during the Coronavirus pandemic. When the clinic began testing for COVID-19, they needed to pivot away from their existing waiting room set up to implement new protocols that keep patients and staff as safe as possible. As part of this protocol, they began screening patients at the door, asking patients to fill out virtual paperwork through NextME, and allowing symptomatic patients to wait in their vehicles until they received a text via NextME that it was their turn to be seen. As a result, Mid City was able to eliminate their crowded waiting rooms, implement contactless check-in procedures, separate sick patients from the healthy ones, and increase overall waiting room efficiency by using virtual paperwork and a text message-based apportionment system. 

High Staff Accountability

Finally, tying all of these concepts together leads to high staff accountability. Ensuring hospital and clinic staff are involved, knowledgeable, and responsible for their tasks in the hospital will help lower wait times, potentially saving lives. 

Implementing these 4 steps to improve the efficiency of waiting rooms is more important now than ever.

COVID-19 is changing the landscape and consequences of crowded waiting rooms, and of patients’ willingness to enter those wait rooms. As we all begin to re-enter our communities, a new normal is needed to ensure the safety of patients across the country. Now might just be the perfect time to explore how a digital waitlist can move your business and organization forward into this new normal. Request a NextME demo today to discuss what we can do for you.


The New Normal - Managing Appointments and Virtual Waitlists During COVID-19

We’re deep in the middle of a global pandemic. Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has changed almost every facet of life, the whole world round. For those essential businesses still allowed to be open, it’s vital to manage customer flow so that there are no crowds of people passing around the virus at your location. 

Some businesses, like doctor’s offices and restaurants offering takeout, are used to the waiting area concept. This means as clients arrive, they check-in and then wait in a designated area until it’s their turn to be served. Other businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies, are used to just allowing customers to come and go as they please. But at peak times there may be long lines and crowds. In the midst of COVID-19, we can do better.

Emerging Best Practices on Digital Care in the Medical Sector

Fortunately, there are a number of ways essential businesses can still serve their clients without risking the health of everyone involved. The CDC has recommended we all keep at least 6 feet of space between ourselves and others. They’re also suggesting we all wear face masks to ensure that we are not spreading the virus even though we may be asymptomatic. But how does a doctor’s office still manage to still see patients without allowing them to congregate in a waiting room? How does a takeout service get meals to customers during the dinner rush without a line forming? Here are three ideas we’re seeing implemented across a wide variety of businesses.

Virtual Waiting Rooms 

Managing Appointments and Virtual Waitlists During COVID - Virtual Waiting Rooms

Photo Courtesy of Textedly

Rather than gathering in a crowd at the front of a restaurant or healthcare clinic, many businesses are implementing virtual waiting rooms. The idea is to allow people to check-in digitally and then wait in their cars or outside where they can maintain at least a six-foot distance around themselves. When it’s time for them to receive service or be allowed inside, they’ll receive a text message alerting them to come in. 

Drive-Thru or Curbside Service 

Managing Appointments and Virtual Waitlists During COVID - Drive-Thru Service

Photo Courtesy of U.S. News & World Report

We’re all familiar with the concept of a drive-thru in fast-food restaurants or our favorite coffee chain. But this idea is going far beyond hamburgers and fries. Large sit-down restaurants are making use of “curbside service” as are retailers. Customers place an order with a click or call and then park in front of the business. When their food is ready, their groceries are bagged, or it’s their turn to be tested for the virus, the business’s staff comes to them and offers service at their car. It’s not unlike the carhops of the 50s and 60s, but it’s now being practiced in all sorts of businesses. 

Remote Service

Managing Appointments and Virtual Waitlists During COVID - Remote Service

Photo Courtesy of The Business Times

Finally, the best option for social distancing is remote service. This includes contactless home delivery and virtual visits for service companies. One of the top industries for this type of service is medical care. For many medical concerns, a simple telemedicine appointment can diagnose and offer treatment options without the need to break quarantine. We’re also seeing many delivery services being used more than normal, including grocery shoppers like Instacart and Shipt or meal delivery services from Uber Eats or GrubHub.

How NextME Helps Essential Businesses Implement and Manage Virtual Queues

The best practices above may seem like a nightmare to manage if you’ve never done it before. How do you keep track of all those customers and notify them in a timely manner when it’s their turn? With the help of NextME, of course. 

NextME is a virtual waitlist management system. Whether you’re managing a digital waiting room, a parking lot full of drive-up customers, or a queue of remote appointments, this simple app can help. The app was originally designed with restaurants in mind but has moved well beyond its origins. It’s been used to great effect in the event marketing world and is now moving into other industries like salons, repair services, retail, healthcare, and beyond. 

Managing Appointments and Virtual Waitlists During COVID

Here’s how it works. A customer or client checks in, whether from their home or from their car using NextMe's online portal on your website. Your patron's info populates into your waitlist app and patrons receive a separate text with a link in it. When they tap the web link found in their SMS text, they arrive at your custom branded waiting page. There they’ll see a countdown timer letting them know where they are in line. But they can also see your custom queue management process, carry out specials, retail sales promotions, service provider information, social media links, or anything else you want to share. When it’s almost their turn, they’ll get another text asking them to confirm. They can reply with a simple yes or no and either come inside or stay put and wait for you to come to them. 

The best parts? No mobile app for your customers to have to install. Everything is done by SMS and their preferred web browser. And you can integrate appointments made in advance with same day service requests – no additional software needed. 

Not sure this would work outside the restaurant model? Check out what Kasey Osbon, office manager for Mid City Pediatrics said. “Even prior to COVID-19, we’ve been looking for a digital waitlist system like NextME for years. Moving forward, we can now assure our patients that they can wait and check into our facility in a safe and efficient manner.”

The New “Normal” 

You may think it’s just easier to go with a pen and paper waitlist for the next few weeks until things get back to normal. Unfortunately, this pandemic may not let us off so easily. 

Experts agree that there’s likely to be a new normal, even after the stay at home orders are lifted. When “shelter in place” is no longer required, the virus will still be out there. We’re likely to continue to see waves of infection until a vaccine is created and distributed. That means your business will still want to maintain these best practices long after the current rules have expired. It’s the safest way to protect your customers, your employees, and the community at large.

NextME Virtual Online Waitilst - COVID-19

A virtual waiting list is also more convenient for customers. Instead of sitting in a crowded waiting area, they can run an errand, take a stroll around the block, or just soak up the sunshine outside. So even after Coronavirus is little more than a bad memory, this technology can help your business grow and thrive.

Now might just be the perfect time to explore how a digital waitlist can move your business forward into this new normal. Request a NextME demo today to discuss what we can do for you.