5 Keys to Better Waitlist Management

a photo of Aaron Arizpe

Aaron Arizpe

5 min read

Sep 30, 2021

5 Keys to Better Waitlist Management

We’ve all experienced the nightmare before. Throngs of hungry people crowding around the host stand, guests with reservations unable to check in, exasperated walk-ins wondering why they can’t be seated when there are empty tables within view. It’s a headache for everyone, and a great experience for nobody.

While some might say that being busy is a good problem to have, this scenario also underlines some operational inefficiencies. Savvy restaurateurs know that effective table management is a careful balancing act between welcoming guests with reservations and accommodating those on the waitlist. And since table supply (read: inventory) and demand are constantly shifting, this can be a big challenge for even the most experienced front-of-house teams.

Fortunately, good waitlist management software can take the guesswork out of accommodating walk-ins. Read on to learn about five tools this technology can provide to help operators boost walk-in restaurant traffic, deliver accurate wait times and reduce abandonment rates:

1. Virtual Waitlist: Using Your Most Valuable Real Estate

Once upon a time, would-be diners roamed our city streets unsure of where they might end up eating. They’d wander into whichever restaurant caught their eye, ask for a table, and cross their fingers. The old adage of “location, location, location” held true, as well-positioned restaurants attracted people, those people attracted more people, and so on.

But these days, a restaurant’s most valuable real estate isn’t a physical storefront; it’s their online presence. That’s why offering guests the option to join a virtual waitlist is more important than ever. With this functionality enabled, guests can access your waitlist from anywhere via your website, Google listing or social media channels. Guests are sent an SMS message as they near the top of the list, and can check in quickly with the same text upon arrival.

Optimizing your web presence with a virtual waitlist means guests can join from anywhere.

Besides creating a seamless experience for guests, a virtual waitlist also allows restaurants to capture valuable guest data — including email and phone number. This enables you to grow your guest database automatically. Better yet, multi-venue operators can display wait times for every location at once, encouraging crossover bookings and keeping business “in the family.”

Virtual waitlist technology can help improve the guest experience

and streamline operations at the same time.

2. Digital Waiting Room: Keeping Guests Engaged

With a personalized and interactive digital waiting room, guests can update their profile, view menus, get updated wait times and more. This also provides a space to cross-promote your delivery and takeout offerings, sister locations and social media channels. Plus, with customizable messaging and two-way SMS, your host team is able to stay connected with every guest and ensure they show up when their table is ready.

Virtual waitlist technology can help improve the guest experience and streamline operations at the same time.

3. Dynamic Waitlist: All About the Algorithm

Gone are the days when it made sense for the host team to keep a pen and paper list at the door, offering their best guesses for quote times. In their place are computer screens, with colorful status bars indicating who’s close to their quoted time and visual speed indicators to know if a guest is running late or early.

Equipped with auto-assign algorithms that review thousands of seating combinations every second, today’s waitlist management software is able to deliver extremely accurate wait times. Dynamic and self-adjusting, the system is constantly working in the background so that your team doesn’t have to. This benefits restaurants and diners alike, streamlining the guest experience, reducing waitlist abandonment, and allowing operators to quickly and efficiently utilize all of their table inventory.

Dynamic waitlist tools deliver the most accurate quotes and provide real-time updates for the host team.

4. Waitlist Reporting: Turning Insights Into Action

Reporting tools are an invaluable resource for restaurant operators looking to make their businesses stronger, and waitlist reporting is no exception. With a built-in reporting dashboard, waitlist management software provides insights into quote accuracy, average wait times, abandonment rates and return times. Leverage this data to make strategic adjustments for a smoother guest experience. When abandonment rates were highest, were you over-quoting? Could longer return times (i.e. the downtime in-between parties being seated) indicate that you need to text guests just a few minutes earlier? These reports can help you answer these questions and more.

A waitlist reporting dashboard provides operators with valuable, actionable insights.

5. Marketing Automation: Bringing Guests Back, Automatically

We’ve seen how waitlist management software can help you effortlessly grow your guest database. But sometimes, it takes more than just a great experience to keep those diners coming back. Luckily, marketing automation software can help you follow up with every guest, every time. A library of tried and tested email campaigns empowers you to segment and engage with your audience without lifting a finger. By sending the right message to the right guest at the right time, you’ll be able to turn first-timers into regulars.

Pro Tip: Create an “Abandoned Waitlist” auto-tag for guests who join your virtual waitlist but don’t get seated. Then, utilize marketing automation tools to reach out to them and offer a reservation for next time.

Utilize marketing automation software to send targeted email campaigns proven to drive repeat business.

Waitlist management software can help operators boost walk-in restaurant traffic, deliver accurate wait times and reduce abandonment rates. Book a demo to learn how SevenRooms can set your business up for success with these powerful tools today.

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