WHAT: An iPad app for casual-dining restaurants to manage seating. Restaurant hosts or hostesses put the customer's phone number in the app and notify the guest via text message when a table is available.
Customers are free to leave the restaurant until they are notified, at which point they can cancel their table or tell the restaurant (also by text message) they will be there soon.
Restaurants can also use the system to send thank-you messages to the guest and invite them to join reward-type programs by texting a response. The restaurant does not retain customer phone numbers unless customers opt-in to their programs. Restaurants can connect multiple devices to the platform, including their iPhones.
LAUNCHERS: Robb Myer, CEO; James Belt, director software information architecture; Richard Colvin, director software engineering; Luke Panza, business development.
WHEN/WHERE: April 2011 / Pittsburgh.
WHY: The standard waiting process at casual dining restaurants typically relies on pen/paper or old pager systems that the industry spends more than $100M a year to maintain. Requiring customers to wait in designated areas can become uncomfortable and deter potential guests. Restaurants resolve these issues if they text guests when their table is ready no matter where they chose to wait.
BACKSTORY: Robb had the initial idea for NoWait when he was looking for a brunch place in the Bay Area and wanted to know real-time information about wait times. After meeting a few other entrepreneurs who shared his frustration, the group used the lean startup methodology and talked to dozens of restaurants to find the pain points of the seating process. They built the app based on those needs.
BUSINESS MODEL: Subscription model, pricing currently worked out individually.
COMPETITION: Textaurant, Table's Ready, OpenTable and traditional pager manufacturers like Long Range Systems.
ON OPEN TABLE: "We don't consider them a competitor because they are targeting that fine dining restaurant, where most times if you walk in they would say 'Do you have a reservation?'" Robb says. "We are targeting more casual restaurants, even if they are upscale casual that have chosen not to take reservations."
CUSTOMERS/GROWTH: Dozens of restaurants as well as several national chains.
WHO BACKED IT: AlphaLab accelerator in Pittsburgh, part of the TechStars Network.
TOTAL RAISED: $300K in seed money last year. Currently raising $1.5M Series A to invest in marketing and sales.
ON ALPHALAB ACCELERATOR: "They follow the TechStars model of mentoring and provided a lot of mentor pushing and helped us set up specific milestones for developing the business model and customer acquisition," Robb explains. "It also introduced us to a lot of important mentors, people like Sean Ammirati, COO ReadWriteWeb, and made those kind of introductions. Just like all the other accelerators it puts you on a timeline and holds you accountable, and really accelerated our ability to define and execute on our vision."
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 6
The main add/edit party screen let's the restaurant host input the guests information as far as party size and seating preference as well as the ability to take call ahead seating.
When a customer's table is ready, the restaurant hosts tap the signal button (in the highlighted circle above) and NoWait will ask them to confirm sending the customer a notification via text message." The seat icon on the main screen takes the party off the list after they have returned to be seated. A party that calls ahead received a different check message that tells them to check-in with the host when they arrive.
Restaurants can send text messages to guests who opt-in to their reward/notification programs. They can title their campaign, create the message, select its recipients and then schedule its delivery.
1. At The End of the Line: Patrons Simmer Over Restaurant Wait Times ( Deseret News, May 15, 2009)
2. 11 Top Restaurant Trends for 2011 (RestaurantMagazine.com)
CONTACTS & LINKS
Robb Myer, CEO
Email: Robb at NoWaitApp dot com