Do Restaurants Win or Lose when Review Sites Manage their Waitlists?

Diner Review Sites and Waitlist Management - The Inherent Conflict of Interest

Diner Review Sites Waitlist Management NextME Yelp

Photo Courtesy of Twilio

With the introduction of ‘Jump Into Line’ and other features, Yelp is making waves in the restaurant waitlist market. Since it’s a big name that most everyone knows, many diners are jumping on board but restaurant operators have been feeling wary of implementing Yelp’s new features. Yelp’s acquisition of NoWait in March of 2017 brought them a large number of restaurant clients who may not necessarily approve of Yelp’s service or practices. Although using one platform for everything - from waitlist management and operations to diner reviews - seems like a good idea, we began to wonder… Who really wins and loses when a diner review site starts managing a restaurant’s waitlist?

Having easy access to a review platform and the ability to book a reservation is a win for consumers - we aren’t here to debate this fact. But what about the conflict of interest this creates for businesses? Based on our research and the opinions of some industry experts, it’s clear that there must be a compromise solution that provides a great experience for customers without being detrimental to restaurant operations and brand perception. It seems a number of restaurants aren’t happy with the platform and are looking for alternatives. Here’s why...

Sending diners to a review site while waiting in line can increase negative reviews

We all know that there are certain times we can expect a crowd at our favorite restaurants. But that doesn’t mean we don’t hate waiting. If you’re using a review app to manage your restaurant’s waitlist, you’re sending people to a review site at the exact moment they’re most likely to be annoyed by having to wait.  

According to The Street, two of the top restaurant complaints are an unexplained wait and slow service. Review sites like Yelp are trying to sell restaurateurs on a system that would recommend customers post a review while they’re waiting for a seat. Common sense says this is a bad idea. And yet, many restaurants are turning to this review site to manage their wait lists.

Wouldn’t you rather have a simple and effective waitlist solution that allows you to control the content your waiting customers are given? NextME allows you to do just that. With this easy-to-use app, you can send your guests to a page that gives them information and entertainment, rather than asking them for reviews. Your guests can explore the menu, learn about current specials, and interact with social media. So their wait time will seem shorter and they’ll be ready to order by the time they’re seated. The best part about NextME is that diners DO NOT have to download a mobile app.

Review sites build features that benefit diners, not necessarily restaurants

At first, Yelp’s ‘Jump Into Line’ feature may seem like a good idea. Customers can get their names on your list remotely, so they’ll have less wait time when they arrive. Great, right?

What about when large parties jump in? And how can your host or hostess quote accurate times when they don’t know who may be jumping in? There are a number of reasons this feature may not be a good fit for every restaurant.

But review sites like Yelp has now made it mandatory for restaurants to use their 'Jump Into Line Remotely' feature. Don’t like it? Tough. You’re stuck with it.

NextME, by contrast, allows you to opt-in for only the features you actually want. Our system has launched a similar feature to allow guests to put their names on the list remotely, but you won’t be stuck with it if it doesn’t work for you. Instead, you’ll get to try it out, see if you like it, and if not, simply turn this optional feature off. With NextME, you maintain control over what features are offered to guests, to help you create the most efficient and useful system for your needs.

Review sites are overpriced compared to apps that specialize only in waitlist management

We all know margins in the restaurant industry are notoriously thin. Managing the money to keep your head above water can be a challenge during slow periods. So why would you want to pay big money for a system that doesn’t even work well for you?

Review apps like Yelp, are highly overpriced compared to other apps that specialize only in waitlist management. Yelp just increased its price from $100 per month to $300 per month. That’s $300 out of your budget each and every month. Wouldn’t you rather spend that money elsewhere?

By contrast, NextME's paid plans start at $29.99 per month, and we even have a free option for those who are just starting out or who don’t need our more in-depth features.

So you can spend your money on a big name, hoping you can make your restaurant fit into their system. Or you can spend way less for a top-notch system that is customizable to fit your needs. The choice is yours.

All review sites require diners to download a separate app to check their places in line

Some guests are more than happy to download and store dozens of apps on their phone, no matter how frequently they may use them in the future. But more often, convincing a guest to use precious space on their phone is a challenge. And for others, they just don’t want to be forced into downloading something that they’re not sure will be of benefit.

All review sites require diners to download a separate app to use the waitlist feature. So your restaurant winds up having to sell diners on someone else’s business. And if they don’t buy in you’re forced to manage their wait on your own, separate from others who have the app installed. This is inefficient and inhospitable to new guests.

One of the major benefits of NextME is that our system doesn't require, or even request, a download. Instead, we’ll simply text a link to waiting diners, and they can then view content on a web page you’ve designed. Your host stand will have the app, guests will have a seamless experience directed through the web browser of their choice. What could be simpler?

The bottom line...

You want to entertain and inform, not beg for reviews from annoyed guests. You want to maintain control over your business and use only the features that actually work for you. You want to keep costs low and features high. And you want a solution that doesn’t require guests to download yet another app they don’t actually want.

NextME offers all this and more. Why not schedule a demo today to see how our waitlist solution can work for you?


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?


Best Mobile pp for FOH Restaurant Staff

Most people are sharing apps that list/rate restaurants or tie into food delivery. The NextME app is quite different. The NextME app is one of the greatest apps a diner/patron will never have to download to use. Now, that might sound a little crazy without understanding exactly what NextME is.

NextME is a digital waitlist app that allows people to utilize their cell-phone number to hold their place in line. While there are other similar platforms on the market, most require downloads and sign-ins on the consumers’ end which can be a bit frustrating if the app isn’t something you use on a daily basis. NextME allows you to simply walk in and leave your info. When that information is put into the app, you are sent a text message through the app with a special link (that works on your phone’s mobile web browser) which will show a real time countdown of your position in line. NextME also sends you a text to let you know the host is ready to seat you, and you are prompted to reply to the app via text if you still want your table.

Restaurants love us because on that countdown page for each person on the waitlist, we can place digital menus, videos, partner ads and anything else you want your patron’s eyes on. With that said, the ability to browse the menu in digital form speeds up table turnover, and increases peak hours because diners know what they want and are instantly able to prompt the host.

Diners love us because they shouldn’t have to learn a new system/app every time they want to go out to eat. A cell phone is a device that most, if not all diners have. It just makes sense to build an app around their number.

Ready To Introduce A Digital Waitlist App To Your Restaurant Employees?
Have any questions or curious as to what benefits a digital waitlist app like NextME can do for your restaurant? Comment below or reach out to us!

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


Table Tracking Feature - NextME Restaurant Waitlist App

We’re happy to announce that we’ve made some updates to the NextME App. We want to thank all of our existing customers for their valuable feedback as their input has gone a long way into helping us to determine new features to include. With that said, lets take a look at whats new!

After launching NextME, one of the most requested features has been the ability for hosts to easily track table numbers. The addition of table tracking as a feature allows us to offer more robust analytics and contributes to the accuracy of our quoted wait times.

Table tracking is accomplished by simply adding the table number you anticipate seating your patrons in the “Table #” field on the live waitlist.

 

 

With NextME, I never have to worry about using pagers, taking notes on what patrons look like, or shouting names over people in a loud room. I have more time to help everyone who walks in, and the customers are seated faster. Everyone wins!

Want to learn more about NextME? Head to our website to see what it’s all about! And don’t forget to check out Kuma’s Corner to get your ultimate burger fix.

Happy Waiting!


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: