Improving Your Restaurant Waitlist Management with a Virtual Waitlist

a photo of Marybeth Sheppard

Marybeth Sheppard

5 min read

Mar 29, 2021

Improving Your Restaurant Waitlist Management with a Virtual Waitlist

Are you on line? Or in line? Or, if you’re in London, maybe you’re queuing up. Regardless of how you refer to it, no one loves waiting. Why? For some, it can make them feel unimportant (royalty doesn’t wait on lines, do they?) and it can feel like wasted time. The combination of those factors can test people’s patience. In a restaurant setting, it can be worse because you’re likely adding hunger to the mix. (If you’re not familiar with the word hangry, you should be).

But impatient, hangry customers aren’t the worst of it. In March 2020, the world was turned upside down with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant industry was one of the hardest hit. Even in those areas that remained open, there were huge changes in customer preferences. Some customers would only use delivery and take-out options, others clamored for contactless ordering and payment options so they could limit interactions with staff — and near-universally, customers no longer wanted to gather in crowded bars, foyers and entryways while they waited for a table. Customers who were willing to dine on-premise wanted assurance that their table would be ready for them when they arrived inside.

Even as there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for restaurants as vaccine distribution gains steam, some changes from the pandemic are here to stay — and customers’ aversion to waiting in crowded areas is definitely one of them. According to a recent report by Dataessentials, 63% of consumers support restaurants only seating guests with a reservation or predetermined time to dine (source here).

For all these reasons, 2020 ushered in skyrocketing demand for technology in the restaurant space, including solutions that help restaurants manage reservations and waitlists. At SevenRooms, we saw this firsthand, and that’s why we introduced an enhanced version of SevenRooms Waitlist, which includes additional features such as a virtual waitlist, QR codes and integration with Google.

These solutions might have arrived on the scene in 2020 because they prevent crowded waiting rooms, but they are here to stay thanks to the fact that they also deliver opportunities for restaurants to improve the overall guest experience and improve satisfaction through waitlist management.

What is a Virtual Waitlist?

Virtual waitlist refers to a waitlist management technology that enables guests to add themselves to a restaurant’s waiting list for a table using any internet-connected device, such as their mobile device or laptop. By offering this capability, restaurants can provide a fully contactless check-in experience, improve quoted wait times, and reduce abandonment rates — all while capturing more guest data and improving the guest experience.

Here’s a quick overview of what the streamlined experience is like for guests:

Guests click a “Join the Waitlist” link — either from a restaurant’s Google listing (shown in the image below), website, social media profile or other marketing asset and they land on a web page where they are able to enter their party size to view accurate information on the wait time at the restaurant. Then, guests can “add” themselves to the waitlist by completing the sign-up process, which includes filling out name, email address, and phone number.

Guests can even add special requests and dietary restrictions during the process. This data is used to create guest profiles to help inform service and marketing. Guests then receive SMS notifications alerting them when their table is ready — notifications can even include a link to the menu so guests can browse ahead of time.

Be where your guests are: A “Join the Waitlist” button on your Google My Business listing gives your customers the convenience of getting accurate wait times and adding themselves to the list from home.

Want a “Join the Waitlist” button on your Google My Business listing? Get in touch today.

Top Four Benefits of a Virtual Waitlist

1. Let Guests Join the Waitlist From Home

By leveraging a virtual waitlist, you can avoid queues at the host stands and allow your guests to join your waitlist from anywhere. Our white-labeled waitlist widget is accessible on any browser, allows guests to see their status in the queue and hosts to communicate via 2-way SMS texting. This is a no-brainer in the era of COVID. Even with vaccines on their way, most people will not be clamoring to have strangers breathe on them anytime soon — and plus, your host team will be thrilled to not have guests coming up and asking for updates every five minutes!

2. Decrease Your Abandonment Rate

When your virtual waitlist is fully-integrated with your table management system, like the SevenRooms solution, the technology is scary-good at predicting wait times. That means your guests show up on time and you’ll be able to get them seated right away.

If you’re part of a group, you can say goodbye to the worry of losing customers because they have arrived on site and find out the waitlist is super long. The SevenRooms Virtual Waitlist solution offers you the ability to cross-promote all your restaurants. That means guests can browse the wait times across venues and select the one that works best for them. If a guest wants to dine with you, this is just another way to make it easy to do so. No worries about that guest choosing a competitor because they are surprised about wait time after they arrive.

The SevenRooms Waitlist solution helps groups keep customers in the family by making it easy to promote wait times across the portfolio.

3. Get to know your guests

If you know anything about SevenRooms, you probably know that we’re all empowering operators to capture and own their guest data, and enabling them to put that data to work for them automatically. That’s why robust guest profiles sit at the core of the SevenRooms platform, including at the core of our Waitlist solution.

By enabling people to join the waitlist digitally, you are creating an opportunity to collect data and start building out their profiles the moment they join your waitlist — and even before they walk in the door. With SevenRooms, you’ll know how long they waited, who actually dined with you, what they ordered and if they wrote a positive or negative review.

Giving guests accurate quote times is just the beginning. Start your relationship with a guest before they even walk through the door. Capturing guest details creates robust guest profiles that can help drive personalized service and marketing.

If your restaurant waitlist management has historically been done with pen and paper, you might be wondering what you can do with this extra guest data. The opportunities are endless. When you have the details you need at your fingertips — from allergies and birthdays to past purchases and taste preferences, whether a guest has dined with you once or one hundred times — you can deliver personalized experiences and deliver the type of exceptional experiences that keep guests coming back for more. Plus, with SevenRooms, you own the data, so you can integrate your guest loyalty programs and POS system to dynamically build out guest profiles at scale and use that data for hyper-targeted marketing campaigns.

Here’s an example: If a guest decides to leave and abandons the waitlist, you could send an automated email with an offer to return for a free appetizer on their next visit.

4. Deliver Personalized Experiences

SevenRooms is committed to helping operators create amazing moments for every guest, but sometimes a great experience isn’t enough to guarantee a repeat visit. That’s why our Waitlist solution comes fully-integrated with our marketing automation tools. You’ll be able to stay in touch after the meals and send the right message to the right guest at the right time to turn first-timers into regulars.

What are you waiting for?

If you’re thinking about the benefits of adding a Virtual Waitlist for your restaurant, don’t wait. It will not only improve your guests’ experience but it will help you drive more revenue and increase repeat business. As you explore options for waitlist management software, I encourage you to make sure any solution you implement has these key features

White-labeled waitlist management widget with your branding
Virtual waitlist — Guest add-to-waitlist
Interactive waiting room for guests to engage while they wait
Guest profiles, database and CRM
Auto-assign seating algorithm for better table management
Integrated feedback surveys & online review aggregation
Two-way SMS messaging with guests
Automated email campaigns
Waitlist specific reporting & analytics
An open API, so you can integrate your entire tech stack

Still have questions? Contact us today for a deep dive on how running a smooth waitlist can help you increase revenue and improve brand loyalty.

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