Q&A: On restaurant wait list technology with Craig Walker, NoshList chief executive
With American consumers dining out now more than ever, waitlist apps are changing one of the most arguably antiquated seating systems in the industry. By replacing pad and paper or buzzer seating systems, wait list apps do what other systems cannot: such as automatically calculate average wait times for guests. This takes the guesswork out of estimating seating times for restaurant patrons. It also frees up restaurant staff to focus on other areas of the customer experience.
And customers are ready to use this technology. According to a 2012 National Restaurant Association poll, 46 percent of restaurant customers said they would use a restaurant’s smartphone app if available.
In this Q&A with NoshList founder Craig Walker, he tells us how the company got its start and how it is changing the way restaurant staff interact with waiting guests. To date, NoshList has been used to seat more than 34 million diners across U.S. restaurant chains and is on target to hit 50 million diners by the end of August.
When did NoshList get its start and why?
The idea for NoshList actually came to me one night while I was dining out with my family at a local restaurant. The restaurant hostess put our names on the list and then we waited to be seated for what seemed like an eternity. We were in an area that had lots of little shops, almost like a pedestrian mall, and it was frustrating to not be able to walk around the shops while we were waiting to be seated. I kept thinking there had to be another way. And that’s the genesis of NoshList — finding a better way to seat customers.
NoshList was launched in 2012 as a free wait list app restaurant operators can download and immediately use on tablets and mobile devices. Right now it can run on iPad and iPhone devices in addition to Android operating systems.
What are some of the features that make it different from other waitlist apps on the market?
Obviously we think our NoshList app provides the best wait list app functionality available today. In addition to all the core seating and management features, we allow restaurants to customize the notifications and public view of the waitlist that users can check from their phone or from anywhere. Customers can even add themselves to a wait list from wherever they may be if a restaurant turns on this feature. So a customer can be at home, in the car, or at the office and add themselves to a restaurant’s wait list. It’s a pretty amazing feature. We also just launched a new reservations feature and improved analytics in May.
Who are your primary users?
The majority of our users are table service restaurants looking to enhance the guest experience. We also believe fast casual and quick service operators could also benefit from the tool. Really, it’s for any restaurant that has a wait list whether it be for seating or food pick up.
With the increase in curb side and take out, the NoshList app is a valuable tool for restaurant staff looking to increase operational efficiencies in those areas as well. Some of our current users include Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Buffalo Wild Wings, Blue Line Pizza and Scotty’s Brewhouse.
How is app technology such as NoshList changing the restaurant experience for guests?
App technology increases communication between the operator and the customers. Much of today’s wait list application technology can support two-way communication between restaurant staff and guests, and waitlist management software is leading this trend. The two-way communication system is great because it gives guests the freedom to decide whether they want to sit and wait at the restaurant or walk around the area knowing they won’t be forgotten when their table is ready.
This is a huge deal for the restaurant operators we have talked to who use our system.
Plus, NoshList now has a reservations feature which opens the door for continued innovation in waitlist technology. Now, restaurant operators don’t have to rely on web sites or single-use apps to handle reservations and manage a wait list. In this way, technology such as ours will continue to integrate into it as much functionality an operator needs to run their businesses better on the back end while improving the guest experience on the front.
For more information, please visit www.noshlist.com