We’ve all been there: 45 minutes into what should have been a 30-minute wait, your table still isn’t ready and you and your date are getting more antsy by the minute.
Robb Myer found himself in the same situation one too many times and decided to do something about it. What the world needed was a way for diners to control not only where they waited, but how long they waited as well, since Myer believed that time is the most important aspect of a customer’s life. There was one more challenge: whatever was made also needed make the lives of those working in the restaurant easier.
So he created iOS- and Android-friendly app Nowait, a text message waitlist system that allows a party to walk right in and to their table, regardless of if they take reservations or not.
It’s spread like wildfire, with over 39 million hours saved, 10 million users and, finally, a place in Charlotte.
Some of the city’s most popular restaurants are on it, including Soul Gastrolounge, Cowbell Burger & Whiskey Bar and Hot Taco. Here’s how it works.
The first step is to download the app and create your profile, which will keep track of the restaurants you’ve visited, how long you waited and what you thought.
You’ll be directed to a screen that allows you to scroll through your options and see what the waits are looking like (note: these wait times are unusually low – especially for Another Broken Egg – because I was browsing in the morning).
Once you’ve made your decision, hit ‘Get in Line’ to give the restaurant the details it needs when it comes to your dining experience.
Based on the size of your party, your wait times will differ. Keep in mind that some restaurants, like Cowbell, won’t take reservations for larger parties.
Congratulations! You’ve saved yourself a table. You’ll receive two different notifications (one in your text messages, another in the app itself) letting you know when to arrive and how to check your place in line.
When you get there, you’ll walk straight past the lobby and to your table like a total MVP.
While you don’t have to download the app to use the service, you’ll miss out on a lot of the little benefits.
Without the app, you’ll just approach a restaurant and put your name and number on their Nowait wait list and wait for their text that your table is ready – but that means that you won’t have access to things like calling ahead from the parking lot or while you’re on your way.
Yes, it makes your life easier, but it also makes the restaurant’s operations run far more smoothly.
One of The Bottle Cap Group’s newest ventures, Hot Taco, has been using the app for around 8 weeks and according to General Manager Tim Hauser, the difference it’s made is “night and day.”
It was something that came out of necessity for the restaurant, especially on Tuesday, when the crowds come out in droves for their taco specials, making the wait times around 30-45 minutes.
“From the front of house perspective, it makes everything easier,” he said. “The staff is now fully trained on it and we’ve got the right people who can manage it. It’s taken a lot of pressure off of the front of the house.”
The pressure disappears and the tables turn faster when the need for someone taking names and dialing phone numbers disappears and is replaced by a simple inputting of data and letting technology do the rest.
“It keeps more people on the floor,” he explained. “It makes it possible to have someone actually greeting, sitting and setting tables.”
It’s made a difference in the feedback Hot Taco receives as well.
The restaurant had a tough time with Yelp reviews before beginning to use the app, but Hauser blames that on the fact that Yelp can be a “forum for how things go bad.”
That’s not the type of response that the restaurant gets from Nowait users. After the meal, the app prompts the user to review the restaurant privately and for the most part, the majority of feedback Hauser has seen is positive and consists of messages like, “Thanks for having [the app], you’re making [dining out] easier.”
Overall, the experience Hot Taco has had with the app has been a great one.
“I’m not a technology guy, but this really impressed me,” Hauser said.
Here are the Charlotte-area restaurants currently on and coming soon to the app:
Another Broken Egg Café – 3920 Sharon Road
Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar – 1626 East Boulevard, 15105 John J. Delaney Drive
Boardwalk Billy’s – 9005 J.M. Keynes Drive
Brixx Wood Fired Pizza – Coming soon – 9820 Rea Road
Char Bar No. 7 – 6300 Carmel Road
Chili’s – 5521 Westpark Drive, 8164 South Tryon Street, 500 University Center Boulevard, 8325 Northlake Commons Boulevard, 2521 North Sardis Road, 8302 Pineville-Matthews Road, 8136 Providence Road, 9730 Rea Road
Cowbell Burger & Whiskey Bar – 201 North Tryon Street
Crave Dessert Bar – 500 West 5th Street
Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub – Coming soon – 3116 North Davidson Street
Hickory Tavern – 1100 Metropolitan Avenue, 9010 Harris Corners Parkway, 2005 East Arbors Drive, 12210 Cooper Way, 13545 Steelecroft Parkway, 11504 Providence Road
Hot Taco – 200 East Bland Street
IHOP – 336 South Sharon Amity Road
Midwood Smoke House – 1401 Central Avenue, 12410 Johnston Road
Moo & Brew – Coming soon – 1300 Central Avenue
Original Pancake House – 4736 Sharon Road
Soul Gastrolounge – 1500 Central Avenue
Whisky River – 210 East Trade Street
Wild Wing Café – 210 East Trade Street, 2132 Ayrsley Town Boulevard (coming soon)
Cover photo courtesy of Nowait