Restaurants Save Time and Money with a Waitlist App

Technology is everywhere, from the smartphones we carry with us to the advanced systems in our cars, to the tech in use at places of business large and small. And the restaurant industry is no exception.

From touchscreen food and beverage dispensers that offer diners more options and a serve yourself experience, to biodiesel converters that will convert your used fryer oil to fuel delivery trucks and catering vehicles, technology is improving the way we do business. And better yet, it’s improving the bottom line of an industry with infamously tight margins.

But how, exactly, is all of this progress helping restaurateurs to save? We’ll examine how just one inexpensive bit of technology can increase profits, decrease costs, and help your restaurant run more smoothly even at the busiest of times.

Stop Seating Parties Like It’s 1999

Many eateries who don’t accept reservations are still relying on those costly, germ-ridden pager systems they’ve been using for 20 years or more. Yet these systems are pretty much the opposite of technological progress.

In addition to the sizeable cost of outfitting a restaurant with these bits of last century tech, you’re also on the hook for the expense of maintaining them, and replacement costs that can reach up to $100 per unit. Then there are the man hours spent on upkeep, searching for wayward pagers when guests get tired of waiting and just ditch them in the waiting area, and the eyesore of a blinking tower of plastic that greets your guests when they approach the host’s table.

Ditch the pagers, and instead tap into the technology that most of your diners are already carrying with them anyway. With a waitlist app like NextME, you can replace all of that outdated equipment with a single sleek and sophisticated iPad or iPhone. Plus, the app is a simple solution to implement, and new host staff can be trained and up to speed quickly for a minimum of downtime. As an added bonus, guests don’t even have to download the app to take advantage of the NextME system! They simply give the host their phone numbers, then receive SMS texts notifying them of their wait times and positions in line.

Keep Guests Engaged to Prevent Walkouts

Hosts see it daily. A party comes in, puts their name on the list, and sits down to wait. But when their turn comes and their name is called, the party is nowhere to be found. The host then has to spend valuable time trying to locate them before moving on to the next party in line. It’s a frustrating experience for all involved.

With the NextME waitlist, customers can see exactly where they are in line, along with their estimated wait times - all via SMS texts without needing to download a separate app. Additionally, they can browse the menu, check out your current specials, read reviews on your social media pages, and otherwise engage with your brand while they wait. All of this leads to 25% fewer walkouts over all. But what about those who still leave? Since guests can confirm or cancel their table when they’re told it’s ready, your host won’t have to waste time tracking down wayward parties.

Double Your Table Turns

If you could double the number of tables you could serve per hour at peak times, what would that do for your bottom line? You may be wondering how such a thing is possible, and what it has to do with waitlist apps.

Displaying digital menus to patrons while they wait can significantly cut down on the time spent at the table trying to decide what to order. And since NextME’s customer facing mobile marketing page allows you to display your menu, specials, social media, and other promotional messages to each guest on the waitlist, you can expect tables to turn much faster – up to twice as fast! For those who are counting, that means double the revenue during peak dining hours.

Keep Your Front of the House Running Smoothly

Have you even calculated how much time your hosts spend answering questions about how much longer the wait will be? Or tracking down parties who have wandered off or pagers that have been ditched in the bushes outside? As you’ve already seen, waitlist apps can help eliminate each of these time sinks to allow your hosts to focus on what really matters: hospitality. And that increased staff efficiency means more productivity with fewer FTEs, and a less stressful shift for those working peak hours.

But Does It Really Save Money?

NextME’s track record has been proven, and restaurants can attest to the effect it’s had on their customer satisfaction as well as their bottom lines. Of course, your results will vary depending on the size of your restaurant and the volume of guests you seat on a given day, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest you’ll likely save thousands. In fact, Southport Grocery & Cafe, a tiny brunch destination, saved over $2,000 by switching to NextME. And a larger chain, Lou Malnati's, saved upwards of $10,000 across their 13 locations. So the real question is, can you afford not to update your waitlist?


6 Tips for a Memorable & Profitable Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is known as one of the busiest day of the year for restaurants. And it’s right around the corner! You may be wondering how to handle the extra demand. Here are our best tips for creating a special day that your guests will remember fondly for years to come!

Staff Up

No matter how amazing your staff is, they do have their limits. Don’t try to run Mother’s Day as if it’s the same as any other holiday. Be sure to staff up with some of your best hosts, servers, bartenders, and kitchen staff. If at all possible, avoid scheduling folks for Saturday night and also Sunday morning. You want energetic, fresh staff members, not ones who barely got to sleep last night.

Include Brunch

Even if you normally don’t serve breakfast, Mother’s Day Brunch is pretty much the gold standard. This also allows you to extend your lunch hours into the late morning, which means you can accommodate more table turns and really cash in on the extra traffic. Put together a special menu with all of the usual egg dishes, pancakes, and the like. But also include options from your normal lunch menu to provide variety and versatility.

If this is truly out of your norm, you might even try a prix fixe menu. This will allow you to streamline your kitchen’s efficiency while offering dishes that aren’t part of your normal routine. It also makes ordering ingredients much easier when you have a more limited menu to take into account.

Avoid No-Shows with a No-Res Policy

For important dates like Mother’s Day, it’s not uncommon for guests to choose to book two or three restaurant reservations, and then let Mom choose the one she likes most. Other guests will book for a large party, in case siblings and other family members want to join in the fun, but then show up with only a few people. And then there are those who come and want to spend extra time enjoying the celebration and reminiscing about childhood memories, while keeping your tables full for much longer than you expected. You can avoid these difficulties and more by not offering reservations.

But doesn’t that mean you’ll have a crazy long line? Probably, yes. But guests without reservations expect to wait on Mother’s Day. And you can manage the line and keep your guests informed about the wait with a waitlist app, like NextME. Our app will text your guests with a link to their place in line, then again when it’s time to head back to the host stand. There’s nothing for the customer to download, and they can even view current specials, your social media, and your menu as they wait. It’s really the best of both worlds!

Partner with Other Businesses & Up Your Mobile Marketing Game

Some of the most fun Mother’s Day specials involve partnerships with other local businesses. Imagine offering moms some fun beyond the meal with coupons for the cute little gift shop across the way or the funky jewelry boutique down the street, or a discounted mani/pedi or massage at a local salon. Anything that might be a good way to pamper the mothers in your community would work perfectly here. Even discounts for maid service packages or getaway weekends at a local spa or resort would fit well for the holiday.

How to manage such promotions? You could do something simple like “just show them your receipt,” but it lacks a bit of flair. Handing out paper coupons is also a possibility, but again, may not set the right “vibe” for your restaurant. NextME can help here too. Through our mobile marketing platform, you can customize the marketing messages your guests receive while they’re waiting for their table. Include fun local coupons here, and they can go shopping or book their salon services while they wait! In addition to being a fun way to promote other local businesses (and earn their promotions in return), this can turn wait time into a fun family experience that adds to Mom’s delight, instead of detracting from an otherwise special day. You also can send guests to your social media pages, which has been shown to increase restaurants’ social engagement by up to 17%!

Adjust the Floor Plan

Mother’s Day brings out families, and sometimes they come in large groups. It’s easy to see how a mother of three grown kids, who all have families of their own, can wind up needing seating for a dozen or more. You’ll most likely need to accommodate plenty of large parties.

And while it may be tempting to cram in as many tables as your space can possibly hold, don’t overcrowd or you’re in for a difficult shift for servers, and uncomfortably close tables for guests. Remember to leave plenty of space for booster seats as you’re likely to use more of them than normal. And make use of outdoor seating areas by investing in heaters if it’s still a bit chilly in your area.

Afternoon Tea

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box too. Consider adding in a mid-afternoon tea for Mother’s Day. With plenty of finger sandwiches and bakery selections, this makes for a shorter, less expensive meal that helps to spread out your busy day a bit by offering unique dining hours. And it’s becoming more popular for those looking for something a bit special and unique. Just be sure to promote it heavily on social media so that guests know you’re offering a special tea service and can plan accordingly.

Ready to introduce NextME to your business? Call us at (877) 639-8631 or schedule a demo from us HERE!


7 Ways to Be a Superstar Restaurant Host

So you’ve managed to land the position of the host at one of the hottest eateries in town. Go you! We know you’re going to rock this position, but in case you could use some tips, we’ve got your back!

Whether this is your first hosting job, or you’ve been at this for years, it never hurts to review the basics and figure out where you might have room to improve. Here are the down and dirty details on what it takes to really shine as a host or hostess for a restaurant.

1. Look the part.

This one starts before you even show up for work. As a host or hostess, you’re often the first person guests see when they visit a restaurant for the first time. And you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression. This means you should always arrive for your shift well groomed, clean, and ready to go. Hair should be neat, makeup should be tasteful, and clothing should look professional. It should go without saying, but a host should never be playing with their phone, chewing gum, or eating at the host stand. Remember, you are the face of the restaurant.

2. Greet everyone who walks in the door promptly.

This should be a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get distracted when things are slow, or overwhelmed during a rush. As a host one of your main tasks is to welcome guests to your restaurant. A smile and a friendly greeting goes a long way toward making people feel welcome. This means, no matter how important whatever else you might be doing is, you stop and greet everyone. No exceptions.

3. Be organized.

There’s a lot going on at the host stand – more than most guests realize. You have a thousand things to keep track of, and during a busy shift, it may be hours before you have a chance to breathe for a moment. Keep everything organized and orderly, and you’ll find the task much easier to manage. Make sure you have all the supplies you need before your shift starts, including extras of things like pens or highlighters if you use them. Better yet, a waitlist app like NextME can make it easy to stay on top of everything digitally.

4. Honesty really is the best policy.

Never tell a guest it will be just a few minutes for a table, unless that’s actually true. Never make up an answer to a question if you’re not sure. Be realistic when relaying any type of information, and you’ll head off the kind of problems that could blow up in your face later.

5. Know your restaurant.

If you’re interacting with customers, you’re going to get questions. Lots of them. Whether it’s the phone call about special dietary restrictions, or people who just came in the door asking about special menu items or gift cards, you’re sure to get stumped now and then. Take a proactive approach and learn as much as you can about the menu and restaurant policies, and be sure to familiarize yourself with any specials or promos that are currently ongoing before you start your shift. The more you know, the easier these interactions will be.

6. Know your coworkers.

In every restaurant there are some members of the wait staff who can handle more than others. Being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the team can make things run that much smoother. At the same time, you need to be fair when seating guests so that everyone has a chance to make some good tips. Don’t overload the best servers just because you know they can handle it. Spread the workload around and you’ll find everyone is appreciative, especially the guests!

7. Keep a good sense of humor and maintain composure.

This is probably the most important part of the job. A good host has to grin and bear it no matter what comes your way. You’ll probably deal with rude guests from time to time, but that’s just part of working with the public. Don’t take anything personally, no matter what they may say. Just laugh it off and move on. Likewise, when everything seems to be chaotic and you’ve got a million and one things on your plate, you still need to exude a sense of calm or risk spreading the chaos further. Above all, relax and take the good with the bad. You’re sure to run into plenty of both!

Ready to introduce NextME to your business? Call us at 408.909.6398 or schedule a demo from us HERE !


Restaurants Lose Out When Reservation Systems Feud

It’s a nightmare for any restaurateur: lots of empty tables on Valentines Day because of no-shows. The notoriously busy holiday, when everyone wants to wine and dine their sweetheart, is regarded as the second busiest day for the restaurant industry (falling just short of Mother’s Day). And no-show reservations cost big money.

But Valentines Day 2018 did not go so smoothly for several restaurants in Chicago. A rogue OpenTable employee had been using their rival, Reserve’s, reservations service to make hundreds of fake reservations at 45 restaurants across the city, culminating on Valentine’s Day. As soon as the fraudulent activity was noticed and tracked back, the employee was fired, but much of the damage had already been done.

While it seems the two reservation systems are ready to kiss and make up, the restaurant owners who bore the cost of this ill-advised campaign may not be so forgiving. Every no-show reservation means a table that sits empty. In some restaurants, it only takes a couple of empty tables to kill profits for an entire shift.

But what can you do when your reserved tables are handled by a third party? Overbook and hope nobody notices? Just take the hit? It’s a conundrum restaurateurs have dealt with for years.

An Alternative to Reservation Systems

Walk-in only restaurants never have to deal with no-shows. But of course, there are other issues that can cause them to lose money. Paging systems are expensive to purchase and maintain. Long lines and crowds near the door can turn away diners before they even make it out of the parking lot. But there is a better way.

With a restaurant waiting list app like NextME, hosts can give guests the freedom to wander, the ability to communicate, and all the info you like, right at their fingertips. Customers receive a text that includes a link to see their place in line. There, they can also view restaurant specials, browse your menu, engage with your social media, and feel more connected while they wait. No need to bother the hostess to see what place they hold in line — the link does that too. And if they want to spend their wait time visiting nearby shops or taking a stroll around the neighborhood, they’re not tethered by the limits of a paging system’s range.

In today’s constantly connected world, it just makes sense. Plus, the app can mean a reduction in walkouts of up to 25%!

Customers love it too, especially since they can use NextME without downloading a separate app! All they have to do is show up at a NextME restaurant, give the hostess a phone number, and wait for an SMS notifying them that their table is ready. Being able to check their place in line means they’re free to hang out at the bar around the corner, go to the nail salon down the street for a quick pedi, or spend some time browsing through their favorite boutiques and still make it back in time to be seated.

And your staff is going to appreciate how quick and easy it is to notify customers that their table is ready and keep track of the whole wait list at a glance. In fact, the app can help improve service speed through the whole dining experience as guests have a chance to peruse the menu and decide on their orders before they are seated.

But High End Restaurants Need to Take Reservations

While waitlist apps are wonderful for most restaurants in the full-service casual category, they may not work for others. High end restaurants may still need a way to book tables in advance. It needs to be user friendly, technologically relevant, and most of all, reliable and affordable for businesses.

Enter Tock. Founder Nick Kokonas found himself dismayed over some of the practices and policies of Open Table and other reservations systems, so he decided it was time to come up with an alternative. But how to balance the restaurant’s need for reliable reservations with a customer service oriented approach?

He found the answer in pre-paid reservations and deposits. The system allows restaurants to manage the way they handle their own reservations. On slow days, reservations are often free since there is minimal impact to the restaurant if they no-show. On busier days, diners may pay a reservation deposit up front, so the restaurant gets paid something even if they don’t come. Finally, for the busiest time slots, or big restaurant holidays like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, restaurants can sell pre-paid reservations to ensure those tables won’t lose money, no matter what happens. And best of all, restaurants can choose the balance of these booking options themselves, to optimize their table turns based on their own specific needs.

But does it work? Tock has achieved what was once considered impossible. They boast a 0.03% no show/no pay rate. That’s a dream come true for many high-end eateries!

The Bottom Line

Restaurants live and die based on their ability to quickly turn tables. No show reservations can cause major problems and with modern reservation systems, the power is completely out of your hands. When something goes wrong, whether it’s corporate manipulation, a mean-spirited prank, or simply guests being flaky, it can cost big money.

If an app like NextME can help you turn tables quicker, retain customers, and make life easier for your front of house staff, can you really afford not to give it a try?


What are Restaurants Saying about NextME’s Digital Waitlist App?

What you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. NextME is the go-to waitlist app for restaurant employees that allows diners to add their cell phone number to hold their place in line. That means no more antiquated pen and paper waitlist for hosts and those yucky, germ infest pagers for diners. While there are other similar waitlist platforms on the market, NextME is different and unique in its own way.

NextME app allows hosts to manage walk-ins more efficiently; all they have to enter is a patron’s name, party size and cell phone number into the digital waitlist and the app will send an automated SMS text to diners to easily access their position in line using a weblink. No mobile app needed for diners to download.

NextME’s digital waitlist makes it easy for restaurant hosts to keep track of their waiting patrons and notify guests with a touch of a button. No more shouting guest names off a clipboard and searching for customers in a crowd. While pagers may seem fascinating for first-time users, their clunkiness is tiresome and they are expensive for restaurants to replace — pagers can cost anywhere from $25 to $100 per device.

Taking the guessing game out of waiting has helped restaurants retain more customers during peak hours by up to 25%. When restaurants use pen and paper waitlist, the average retention rate is 65%. When using NextME digital waitlist, restaurant partners find that their retention rates of waiting patrons increase up to 90%. Providing the position in line has proven to help customers manage their commute back to the restaurant, increasing tables turns for the restaurant.

Below are some testimonials from a few of Chicago’s best on how NextME has helped their restaurant increased their bottom line:

Oiistar— “Our kitchen busy hours get extended.”- Oiistar Restaurant Owner

Kuma’s Corner — “Our table turns are dramatically better and we don’t have as many walk outs which helps increase our revenue.”- Kuma’s Corner Restaurant Owner

Café Selmarie— “It’s like New Year’s Eve waiting for your table!”- Café Selmarie Diner

To read more testimonials, click here!

Ready To Introduce A Digital Waitlist App To Your Business?

Have any questions or curious as to what benefits a digital waitlist app like NextME can do for your restaurant or business? Comment below or reach out to us!

It’s time to say goodbye to outdated pager systems! Try a FREE 14-day trial of NextME and replace your expensive pager system with SMS text.

If you’re a diner, no need to download the NextME app. Let us know your favorite no advance reservation policy restaurant and we’ll send you $50.00! Here’s a link to referral program.

Happy Waiting,

The NextME team


Top Chicago Brunch Spots for Memorial Day

This year, Memorial Day falls on Monday, May 29th, and it is a great day to spend in Chicago. The city is brimming with summer kick-off parties, events, rooftop/ outdoor patio bars, and new restaurants. Nothing beats a good Monday off filled with good food and drinks with family and friends.

Planning reservations for brunch on Memorial Day can often be a hassle, especially in a city like Chicago where wait times for a table can be very long at the most popular restaurants. I’ve noticed that many of the brunch spots on Yelp that are tagged as “takes reservations”, DO NOT actually take advance reservations, which can be pretty frustrating. People get irritated by waiting up to an hour for the next table to open up, and we all know how that feels when we’re hangry.

To avoid waiting in line on Memorial Day, we’ve compiled a list of top brunch spots in Chicago below that DO NOT take reservations but are using NextME, the simplest digital waitlist app for restaurant hosts that allows diners to hold their place in line with just their mobile number and SMS text.

Top Memorial Day Brunch Spots in Chicago:

Corridor Brewery & Provisions,

Dryhop Brewers

Kanela Breakfast Club

Le Pain Quotidien,

The Bongo Room

Son of a Butcher

Southport Grocery & Cafe

Whisk Chicago

Here’s how it works: NextME sends you a text message confirming your placement on the list and provides a weblink to a countdown for you and your squad to check your position in line. The best part is, you don’t have to download the app! Just visit a participating NextME restaurant below, and provide your host your mobile number to connect. As you can imagine, having a countdown means that instead of standing on your feet in line for 45 minutes or so, you’ll be making the most of that extra time. When the queue gets low and approaches your position, NextME will send out another text notification to let you know when your table’s ready, which you will reply “1” to keep or “2” to cancel your reservation.

If your favorite brunch spot is NOT already using NextME, we’ve put together a nice referral program to help you battle our fight against hangry dining. Make sure to request NextME to the restaurant and we will compensate you once they sign up!

To learn more about how NextME app can help your restaurant serve smiles while you wait, visit our website.

All the best to you and your squad this Memorial Day weekend!

Happy Waiting,

The NextME Team


Your Friday Night Just Got Better

We’ve all been to a restaurant when it’s busy: The waits are long, and if you live in a city like Chicago, the waits are even longer.

Although Chicago doesn’t have a shortage of fantastic restaurants, everyone seems to know which ones are the best. For example, if someone wants deep dish, they’ll probably go to Lou Malnati’s. If they want a good burger, they’ll go to Kuma’s Corner.

(I may be a little biased because I work at Kuma’s Too, but that’s beside the point.)

This is the famous Kuma burger, and you probably got hungrier just looking at it.

Whether you’re in the industry or not, we all know what it’s like to be hangry. We trade an hour wait for the certainty of a delicious meal. Yet, knowing this, we’re always filled with an irrational mix of anxiety and rage until the host says that message from above — “Your table is ready!”

As a hostess myself, I’ve seen customers’ faces light up all too many times after giving them the good news. I’ve also experienced the looks of panic and subtle death stares when I tell people they have to wait 45 minutes to an hour to be seated. The servers constantly bringing out burgers, mac and cheese plates and wings that saturate the room with a delicious aroma of homemade buffalo sauce doesn’t help, either.

Lucky for me, working at Kuma’s has its perks: Between the friendly staff, delicious food, and awesome beer selection, I definitely haven’t had much to complain about. Plus, they have an awesome digital waitlist app called NextME that I use when the restaurant gets packed. It not only makes my life easier, but helps increase table turns and decrease hangry customers.

Since Kuma’s doesn’t take reservations, NextME does a great job at managing our walk-ins. All I have to do is enter the patron’s name and number into the digital wait list, and the app will send diners an automated text saying which spot in line they’re in using a web link. When it’s someone’s turn to be seated, I press a button that sends them another text telling them their table is ready. I don’t even have to tell my customers to download anything!


How to Manage Waitlists at No-Reservation Restaurants

“Are there services where you can pay someone to wait in line for you? Any creative workarounds? There’s gotta be some random startup that’s solved this problem, no?”

“I’ve also noticed that many of the brunch spots in yelp that are tagged as “takes reservations” don’t actually take reservations for brunch … super annoying.”

NextME has! NextME is a digital waitlist app that allows you to hold your place in line with just your cellphone number. The app sends you a text message confirming your placement on the list and provides a link to a countdown clock for you and your party. The best part is you don’t have to download anything on your end, you just have to visit a restaurant that’s using it. As you can imagine, having a countdown clock means that instead of standing on your feet in line, you’ll be making the most of that extra time. When the clock gets low, NextME will send out another text, which you will reply to keep or cancel your reservation. From there, you’ll be notified when the restaurant is ready to seat you.

PS** If your favorite restaurants aren’t using NextME we’ve put together a nice referral program. Make sure to request NextME at your favorite restaurants and we’ll compensate you once they sign up.

Take a look at our website when you have some time: