The 7 Best Waitlist Apps for Restaurants & Bars

If your restaurant is booming, and there are more customers than you are able to seat, your business is definitely doing something right in the highly competitive food service industry. However, many people do not want to wait to be seated and start eating your delicious food.

Moreover, busy times can be very overwhelming for staff, and things may get disorganized without the right tools. Now that just about everyone has a smartphone, whether iPhone or Android, there is a better way for businesses to manage waitlists.

In this article, we will cover the best waitlist apps businesses in the bar or restaurant industry can use to increase efficiency and improve the dining experience.

What Kinds of Restaurants Can Benefit Most from Waitlist Apps?

In general, casual dining restaurants and bars are better served by waitlist apps than fine-dining establishments.

With fine dining restaurants, waiting times are expected, and often people will have reservations. However, casual dining benefits by seating as many people as possible while their restaurant is open, and wait list apps can help with that.

This is not to say that fine-dining establishments should not use waitlist apps. It is simply worth noting that waitlist apps most benefit those restaurants with long lines, shorter eating times, and high turnover of customers.

The Benefits of Waitlist Software and Apps

The pen-and-paper waitlist may seem like a simple solution. Too often, however, we don’t stop to think that the lack of a more organized system affects restaurant workflow and dampens the overall customer experience.

When customers are waiting in line and don’t know how long they will have to wait, the queueing experience becomes incredibly frustrating. This is especially the case when it comes to waiting for food, since waiting with a hungry belly can feel like it takes an eternity, and many guests will simply leave to find another restaurant where they do not have to wait.

Restaurant operators can greatly benefit from a waitlist system that fits their needs, facilitates workflow, and improves the customer experience. Wait list apps benefit customers because they can rest easy choosing to eat at your restaurant.

Customers do not have to wonder whether there will be a seat available for them because the wait list app will give them an accurate estimate of how long the wait time will be. These apps help remove the human error by giving an accurate estimation of wait time based on analysis of the restaurant data collected by the app.

Wait list apps enable customers to check-in on the restaurant website and give an approximation of how long the waiting period will be. This greatly improves the customer experience because they can then spend their free time however they want to instead of waiting around the restaurant for a table to open up for them.

And yes, even though they may not spend this time at your restaurant, this is still very much a part of the customer experience of your restaurant. Many waitlist apps sync directly with a restaurant’s POS system, allowing customers to get an alert or text message when their table is ready, eliminating the need for pagers.

Better customer experience will prevent diners and profits from walking out of the door when they hear a long wait time. With all of these benefits it is no wonder that so many businesses in the service industry are starting to optimize their waitlist management with waitlist apps.

Considerations for Choosing the Best Waitlist App For Your Restaurant or Bar

Choosing the right system for your restaurant is important. Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment.

1. Features

Waitlist management systems range from simple to advanced, what’s best for your restaurant depends on your requirements.

Do you need a system that helps improve your wait times? Or one that just helps you better organize your waitlist? Assess the available features of waitlist management systems in the market and determine the ones that best suit your restaurant’s needs.

2. Price

Along with the features, the cost of a waitlist management system should also be well-suited for your restaurant.

While price shouldn’t be the only factor that should determine your choice, it’s an important one. Make sure that you choose a system that fits into your budget. Also, be wary of any hidden charges or fees that might blow up your spending.

3. Compatibility

Just like any new software, the waitlist management system should have the capability to easily integrate with your existing technologies like your POS system, table management system, etc. to make your operations streamlined and efficient.

4. Data Ownership

Does your restaurant own the data collected by the app or does the app company own the rights to the data? Some restaurant owners would want to own the data so that they still have it if they decide to switch to a different waitlist app.

However, if the app company owns the data, then switching to a different waitlist app is made much more difficult because the app will not have access to the historical data, and it may take awhile to collect enough data to make accurate predictions about wait times for customers.

The 7 Best Waitlist Apps on the Market Today

1. Yelp Waitlist (NoWait)

This waitlist app was formerly owned and operated by NoWait until Yelp purchased the company and software in 2020. If you have heard good things about NoWait, you can still be sure that the quality of the app is still exceptional under Yelp’s direction.

Popularly known for its review website, Yelp’s waitlist system (powered by Nowait) allows guests to view live wait times at a restaurant on Yelp’s app or website and join the waitlist through their Yelp profile. The guests can then track their place in the line through an SMS.

Yelp’s waitlist management system also provides daily insights and accurate wait-time estimates based on history. Restaurants could also choose to add a kiosk powered by Yelp at their restaurant through which guests can directly add themselves to the waitlist without a host being present. However, the kiosk comes at an additional cost.

Yelp’s table management system is relatively affordable while also having many advanced features, which is what makes Yelp Waitlist such a popular choice for restaurants and bars. Yelp Standard table management system which comes with the waitlist system starts at $249/month.

Yelp’s advanced package also comes with built-in restaurant management tools that can be integrated into your existing POS. POS integration is not a part of the standard package, which means that spending more money for the advanced package may be well worth it for many restaurants.

2. OpenTable

OpenTable provides a solution for restaurants that goes beyond just the waitlist. OpenTable offers three different plans: Basic, Core, and Pro. Depending on which one of the three products is purchased, restaurant owners can manage their reservations, data reporting, and digital marketing from the OpenTable platform.

OpenTable’s most popular plan is the Core plan which costs $249 per month. WIth the core plan you get Basic features plus the ability to maximize seatings, streamline operations, and more with a best-in-class table management system.

The Pro plan has the most features and costs $449 per month. With the Pro plan, you can access all Basic and Core features plus create more regulars and drive loyalty with a system that includes relationship management and automated marketing.

OpenTable is powerful and intuitive, making it one of the best waitlist apps on the market today.

3. Waitlist Me

The idea behind waitlist me is to take the classic pen and paper method of making a waitlist and make it digital for increased organization. Hosts will add the guest to the Waitlist Me app where they can add notes, color code, and record any information about guests that they want to note.

If guests share their phone number, they will receive a text message with a link to show their current place in line. When a table is open, staff can notify diners via text or phone call. Waitlist Me is free to use for up to 100 customers a month. For additional customers and increased premium features, Waitlist Me charges $19.99/month.

4. NextME

NextME is a mobile app that helps restaurants, retailers, salons, healthcare providers, automotive businesses, and entertainment companies to manage their waitlist. The NextME Waitlist uses historical data to help businesses estimate more accurate wait times during the busiest hours.

There are two ways a guest can join the waitlist of a NextME partner restaurant: by calling the restaurant and leaving their details (such as name, phone number, party size, and special requests) to the host/hostess or by making a reservation themselves on the restaurant’s website.

The latter requires restaurants to embed an HTML widget into their website. Once a customer joins the waitlist, NextME shoots them a message with a link to a website where they can track their place in line and check out the restaurant’s specials. Customers are then notified when they’re next in line so they can either cancel their reservation or confirm it.

NextME’s basic waitlist management system is available for free for restaurants. However, the more advanced features like the virtual waiting room are included in the standard and pro package priced at $50/month and $125/month respectively.

NextME provides API integration with different loyalty apps and POS systems to help provide a more seamless experience.

5. Tables Ready

TablesReady lets guests check-in and communicate with employees without the need for additional hardware. TablesReady works on the browser of any device. When a customer joins the waitlist, they’re added by phone number to the bottom of the queue.

As the table becomes available, the hostess can send a text message notifying the customer. The customer can text back, and employees can view responses on the TablesReady dashboard.

TablesReady has unlimited texting and calling for $69.95 a month, and with no contract, restaurants can cancel during their slow season and start back up with no hassle.

6. HostMe

Hostme is restaurant management software that features waitlist management as well as food ordering, table management, guest book, reservation management, analytics and reporting, and event management.

The Hostme waitlist solution enables restaurants to accept orders over the phone, from their websites, and through social media accounts. With the Hostme app, customers can join a restaurant’s waitlist remotely and get notifications when their table is ready.

Diners can even let another party in ahead of them if they’re running late by skipping a turn. Additionally, if restaurant loyalty program members experience long wait times for a table, they can be rewarded for waiting.

HostMe offers three plans ranging from $59 per month to $169. The relatively low cost of HostMe’s plans when you consider all of the functionality they offer is why HostMe has become such a popular restaurant waitlist app, especially for small business owners.

7. Waitwhile

Waitwhile is a digital waitlist app as well as scheduling software. With Waitwhile, guests can join the line from the comfort of their home. Waitwhile features the host dashboard from which restaurants can manage multiple waitlists and notify guests when the restaurant is ready to accommodate them.

To provide customers with a great experience, you need to know their interests and preferences. To help restaurants with this, Waitwhile allows them to collect customer data including staff workloads, average wait times, and the hour with the most guests.

Improve Restaurant Efficiency and the Customer Experience with Waitlist Apps

The world is becoming more based on digital technology with each passing day. While some might not like this when it pertains to certain areas, you will be hard pressed to find any diner that would prefer to wait with the pen and paper method or buzzers.

The fact is that waitlist apps have the ability to maximize business revenue while also greatly improving the customer experience, which in turn means more repeat and regular customers.

Waitlist apps are also great for getting new customers. If a potential customer is considering eating at your establishment, the fact that they can check-in or online order from the comfort of their home and know in real-time how long they should wait to get a table just might seal the deal.