Restaurants Use Apps to Make Big Bucks Serving Nothing

Restaurants Use Apps to Make Big Bucks Serving Nothing

Restaurants have long suffered from slim margins and too-often empty dining rooms. So tech companies are stepping in to match those empty seats with needy customers looking for something other than a bite to eat. As the “New York Post” reports, people are now able to use phone apps to rent out restaurant dining rooms, coat-check areas, and even bathrooms, providing operators with some easy extra cash.

Apps like Luluapp, which will connect those in desperate need of a restroom with the nearest available restroom, for a fee. The app says it has already signed up more than 100 New York restaurants and bars ahead of its summer launch. Users can pay anywhere between 99 cents and $5 for a restroom and restaurants receive 65% of the fee.

Bagbnb is a Rome-based luggage storage startup that works with bars and restaurants across the globe to rent out coat checks so vistors can leave their bags behind while roaming the city.

The app splits its $6, per-bag fee with restaurants and has expanded by offering commissions to tour operators, Airbnb hosts and hotels for suggesting its services to their lodgers.

A Penn Station restaurant, Pennsylvania 6, pulls in about $2,000 a month from storing people’s bags for a few hours or for the day, according to manager Chelsea Feldcher. She adds that about 25 percent of those customers end up grabbing a drink or meal at the eatery before they catch their train.

And KettleSpace, a six-month-old startup, has inked about half a dozen deals with restaurants and bars to open their dining rooms to freelancers and entrepreneurs during the off hours. It charges its laptop-toting clientele from $25 for 10 hours to $99 a month for unlimited access to use the restaurant spaces, where free coffee, snacks, and meals are sometimes part of the deal. By comparison, WeWork’s least expensive plan in New York costs $220 a month. 

“It’s newfound money for us,” said nightclub owner Ravi Patel, whose Hotel Chantelle recently opened up its rooftop lounge — and its retractable roof — to KettleSpace workers.

“This has the potential to reach $3,000 to $5,000 a week for us, which could slash my rent by up to 30 percent,” Patel said.

Read more about how these apps are increasing restaurant revenue at “New York Post.”

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Want to Turn More Tables at Your Restaurant? Improve Your Front-of-House Operations With a Waitlist App

Want to run faster? There’s an app for that. Want to hear a book read to you while you drive your commute? There’s an app for that. Want to keep track of your many different passwords? There’s an app for that. 

Want to alert your guests of wait times and get them on the list? There’s an app for that.

Waitlist systems are becoming much more popular for casual dining establishments because they decrease the wait time for walk-in diners. These apps make it easy for restaurants to alert their diners that their tables are ready.

Nowait is one of these systems gaining some traction in the restaurant industry. This waitlist software helps a restaurant build long-term customer loyalty, streamline the front of house operations to turn more tables, while giving daily analytic reports. 

And guests love it to because they don’t feel like they are waiting and are not stuck in the front of the restaurant while their table is being occupied with other guests.  

In the video above, we visit a Chili’s store in south Florida, that has had success with Nowait, to see how the app has improved front-of-house operations and increased restaurant revenue. 

We also sat down with Nowait’s CEO Ware Sykes to see how this software is one of the valuable tools an operator could be using to improve their restaurant business.  

Ware Sykes, CEO of Nowait |  Nowait

Ware Sykes, CEO of Nowait | Nowait

Foodable: Why does the restaurant industry need waitlist apps?

Sykes: Our daily lives have become accustomed to an on-demand economy, enabling us to get whatever we want, whenever we want it. With companies such as Amazon, Uber, and HotelTonight, an intolerance for waiting despite last-minute behavior is now standard -- and immediate gratification is everything. 

Nowait is helping the restaurant industry realize that providing fantastic hospitality starts even before their guests walk in the door. Allowing consumers to use their mobile phones to “get in line” remotely at their favorite restaurants -- that don’t take reservations -- provides them with VIP treatment that sets the tone for their entire dining experience.

Foodable: Why is Nowait different than other waitlist systems out there?

Sykes: Nowait is the first mobile network for casual-dining, non-reservation restaurants. For thousands of restaurants across the country, it enables them to run more efficiently and grow their business by integrating, streamlining, and optimizing the entire front-of-house. 

For consumers, the app improves their dining experience by giving back the most important thing in people’s lives – their time. Millions of guests use Nowait to add themselves to a restaurant’s waitlist, receive texts when their table is ready, and privately rate their experiences at the end of the meal. Soon, Yelp will be integrating Nowait into its platform, at which time guests will be able to get in line through Yelp at restaurants across the country that have signed up for Nowait's service. Overall, our technology, data, and exceptional customer service are our three biggest differentiators.

Foodable: What have been some of the challenges as a tech startup in the restaurant industry?

Sykes: One of the biggest challenges for us has been convincing restaurants to use an iPad to replace grease-pen and paper, as well as buzzers, which are archaic and inefficient “tools” that the restaurant industry has been using for decades. That said, after using Nowait after just one shift, they quickly understand that Nowait offers a “win-win” solution for restaurants and guests, alike.

Foodable: How many restaurants use this software? What about diners using the app?

Sykes: Currently, thousands of restaurants – ranging from national chains to independent hotspots – use Nowait to seat 30 million guests every month and more than 500 million to date. Additionally, the convenience we have been providing our guests soon can be extended to Yelp users, who will be able to “get in line” remotely through Yelp’s mobile app at any of our more than 4,000 casual-dining restaurants nationwide. Also, just like with the Nowait guest app, they will be able to see wait times at local restaurants, as well as communicate with the restaurant in real-time via text.

Screenshot of the Nowait app |  Nowait

Screenshot of the Nowait app | Nowait

Foodable:  How does Nowait attract new restaurant partners?

Sykes: Combined with our fantastic sales team, one of the biggest vehicles for attracting new restaurant partners is word-of-mouth. Guests who use the Nowait app, even after the first time, find themselves avoiding restaurants where they need to wait in-person to be seated. Our vocal and loyal guests are using social media to encourage their favorite casual dining restaurants to jump on-board with us. Another scenario for attracting new restaurant partners occurs when restaurant owners or their staff are guests at another restaurant that coincidentally uses Nowait. After they personally experience the huge improvement it makes to their overall dining experience, they go back to work the next day and then call us.

Foodable: What do consumers like so much about Nowait?

Sykes: Nowait is your shortcut to amazing dining experiences. From national chains to local spots, Nowait gives back the most important gift in people’s lives – their time. Especially for last-minute meals or drinks with family, friends, or colleagues, enjoying great local food with loved ones shouldn’t mean you have to wait. Get in line from your phone and wait where you want.

Foodable: What does the future hold for Nowait?

Sykes: Recently, Nowait announced a partnership with Yelp and, soon, their users will be able to enjoy the Nowait experience through the Yelp app -- “getting in line” remotely with their mobile phone. This partnership affords us the opportunity to expand our network exponentially overnight and find a value-added strategic partner who shares our passion for great restaurants and a great guest experience.

Are Digital Wine Programs Worth the Cost?

Are Digital Wine Programs Worth the Cost?

By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

Restaurants nationwide have recently begun revolutionizing their wine programs by going digital, replacing their paper wine lists in favor of iPads and Android tablets.  These digital wine programs operate much like other restaurant digital POS systems, offering diners the ability to peruse an electronic wine list, serviced by a number of specially designed apps.  No longer just a novelty item, more and more restaurants are incorporating these digital wine lists into their restaurants, replacing often encyclopedia size wine lists for a sleek, portable tablet.  

The growth of these digital wine programs is undeniable, but are they worth the cost?  Restaurant owners say a categorical yes.  But before implementing one of these systems in your own restaurant, learn how they operate and what benefits they can provide. 

How These Programs Work

Tablets and iPads have already been making their way into restaurants in the form of menus, reservation services and payment processors.  Now, however, these digital programs are becoming more specialized, developing programs tailored specifically to wine sales. 

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Google Maps Integrates OpenTable Directly into the App

Google Maps users will not only be able to get GPS directions to their favorite restaurants, but they will be also we able to make reservations directly through the app. Previously, the app had a link to OpenTable's Mobile website where users would have to leave the Google Maps app.

So the competition continues to heat up between Yelp and Google. Because now Google Maps has integrated OpenTable, while Apple Maps has integrated Yelp (however, it does link out to yelp app.) What will be the next move by these apps to try to stay ahead of the competition? Which platform do you prefer? Read More