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Yelp's Newest Feature Eliminates Long Restaurant Waits

Here’s what that means for users and restaurants

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From food delivery by drone to pay-for-play VIP restaurant reservations, the technology sector is trying to smooth every bump in the road to dining in or out. The latest innovation isn’t new, but is launching wide today: Yelp has partnered with Nowait, an app that allows users to put their name down on a wait list without showing up to the restaurant. The partnership, first announced in August, goes live for all Yelp users this morning.

How it works:

Open Yelp

Browse restaurants

Find suitable wait times (based on how long it will take to get to the restaurant, for example, or a maximum amount of time the diner is willing to wait for a table)

Add name and party size to the wait list from the app

Get notified via text when the table is ready

Diners may reply by text if they’re running late

Nowait CEO Ware Sykes says this partnership connects “Yelp’s network of tens of millions of users with access to the 4,000 restaurants that currently use Nowait.”

This sounds like a massive win for Nowait, a private company founded in 2010. In 2015 Nowait raised $15 million, and this year Yelp poured an additional $8 million into the app and merged its technology into Yelp’s own. However, Nowait is only available in the mobile version of Yelp’s app, not on And users looking to find restaurants that use Nowait won’t be able to filter Yelp searches for Nowait; they’ll have to come upon those restaurants organically.

For restaurant clients, Nowait provides an iPad-based back of house application for staff to use. Each restaurant pays a monthly fee; there is no fee to consumers who use the service. What happens if someone doesn’t show up for their wait time? “The restaurant goes to the next person in line in the queue,” Sykes explains. The app allows users to cancel reservations from their phones too. If a restaurant uses a separate reservation service like Yelp Reservations, Nowait does not communicate with that service but Sykes believes the services can be complementary.

For consumers, the app also has a payment feature, so diners no longer need to request the check and wait for the server to bring it over. Restaurants report shorter turn times as a result.

So where does Sykes see Nowait in the future? “There are 250,000 restaurants across the U.S. 90 percent of Americans will eat at a casual dining restaurant next year. We want to be in every casual dining restaurant in America.”

Sykes doesn’t see apps like Waitlist Me as competition. “Most restaurants are still taking names down the old-fashioned way — with pen and paper. We want to eliminate that.” So far over 250 million diners have used Nowait to secure a table. Now, with added visibility thanks to its partnership with Yelp, that number is likely to grow.

Yelp Wants to Make Sure You Never Have to Wait Two Hours for a Table Again [E]
All Yelp Coverage [E]