Blog Post / July 27, 2020 / Best Practices

The Power of a Virtual Waitlist in the Era of COVID-19

by Mikayla Walzog
Mikayla Walzog

As restaurants reopen after temporary shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, they need to operate with new safety measures in place. Table management is an important part of keeping customers and staff healthy, and restoring customer confidence in the safety of dining out.

Due to new capacity limits, restaurants likely won’t be able to seat customers as soon as they arrive. This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t necessary to keep customers socially distanced, which means guests can’t wait on-premise at most restaurants.

Using a virtual waitlist is one of the easiest ways that you can serve customers safely and maximize revenue at the same time.

Keep reading to learn:

What is a virtual waitlist?

A virtual waitlist removes the contact from the traditional waitlist experience, making it a safer experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. A virtual waitlist lets customers add themselves to the waitlist from their devices before they even arrive at your restaurant.

When guests get to your virtual waitlist URL, they’ll be prompted to provide details such as the size of their party, their name, email, and phone number, and any additional notes or requests. Customers will also be able to see their wait time in real time via the virtual waitlist. Best of all, customers can easily be notified via SMS when their table is ready.

The Taco Shop @ Underdogs in San Francisco has a virtual waitlist

Why should your restaurant use a virtual waitlist during COVID-19?

Remote waitlist management is beneficial during the pandemic for several reasons.

First, virtual waitlists build guest confidence. Guests may be nervous about dining out during the pandemic. Since waitlists may be your guests’ first touchpoint with your restaurant, they will have an outsize impact on your guests’ impression of their dining experience. A virtual waitlist will indicate to guests that you’re serious about safety measures. When guests are confident in how you handle safety during COVID-19, they’ll keep coming back to your restaurant.

Remote table management creates a safe waiting environment for guests. It’s no longer safe for guests to wait inside your restaurant or crowd around the front door. With a virtual waitlist, guests can wait for their table in their cars, or as they stroll around the neighborhood.

Virtual waitlists make contactless, socially distanced waiting possible. Remote waitlist table management eliminates the need for pagers, which can spread coronavirus droplets. It also eliminates the need for guests to check in with the host multiple times to get table updates.

How restaurants can effectively manage their virtual waitlists

If you’re using a virtual waitlist for the first time, follow these tips to ensure a great experience for your guests.

Make sure your waitlist platform integrates with the rest of your tech stack

When you use a virtual waitlist platform that integrates with your POS and table management software, you save time by automating table availability and wait times. For instance, as soon as one party has paid their bill, you can notify another party that their table is almost ready and to return to the restaurant.

Make your waitlist accessible across guest touchpoints

Offer your virtual waitlist on various platforms and across the whole guest journey.

On your website: Place a pop up or banner that announces that you have a virtual waitlist and encourages guests to use it. The Taco Shop @ Underdogs in San Francisco uses both techniques on its homepage.

At your restaurant: Create a QR code that takes guests to your virtual waitlist. Put the QR code on signage outside of your restaurant, such as in the windows, on the front door, or on a sidewalk sign.

Across your social media: Don’t forget your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels. Capture your guests attention while they’re already interacting with you -- helping you convert that online visitor into an in-person guest.

Manage guest expectations

Your virtual waitlist should do more than hold a guest’s place in line. It’s also a powerful tool for managing guest expectations, thus creating a better guest experience.

You can use your virtual waitlist to let guests know how long they have to wait for a table.

Include language explaining that wait times are longer than usual because of limited capacity, and that you’re taking extra precautions to ensure guest safety.

Send your guests multiple updates about their place in line to make guests feel like they’re closer to being seated, and minimize your no-show rate. Customize the SMS updates to say something like, “You’re three tables away from being seated! We’ll let you know when it’s time to come to the host stand.”

Virtual waitlist management helps restaurants restore customer confidence in the era of COVID-19 and enables them to serve guests safely. Request a demo of SevenRooms’ virtual waitlist solution.

About the Author

Mikayla Walzog

Mikayla Walzog writes about the intersection of technology and hospitality for SevenRooms. Her passion includes all things food & beverage and chipping away at her ever-growing bucket list of new restaurants to try.

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