buzzer and restaurant pager alternatives

Diners Prefer SMS Reminders to Restaurant Pager Systems

Many diners consider restaurant pager systems a thing of the past. A recent survey found that 40 per cent of respondents preferred text reminders when dining out. Find out why today’s diners would rather ditch the pager system for an SMS alert.

buzzer and restaurant pager alternatives

Figure 1. Buzzer by Daniel James via Flickr

Restaurant Pager Systems are Off-putting

Flashing, bulky, and to be held at all times — most restaurant pager systems are just plain annoying. 

Although they are sophisticated pieces of machinery (they use the magic of radio signals), pagers are unsuited for today’s restaurant industry. When it’s time to return, the pager receives a signal from the restaurant and a small spiffy circuit board spins a motor inside. This creates a rumble effect, indicating to the holder that their table is ready.

Nowadays, these sorts of pagers are unattractive — less an asset, more a burden for the waiting customer. Also, diners are reluctant to stay grounded to one spot while waiting. Most will walk out when they see a host handing out pagers to waiting customers.

Granted, top-of-the-range pager systems allow customers to wander further from the restaurant, but average range is usually only a few hundred feet. This is the equivalent of an invisible fence — or as one witty writer recently put it, these pagers are slightly better than “two cans and a piece of string”.

Pagers are burdensome. First, there is a huge upfront cost — about £500—£600 for a basic system, providing ten pagers. This isn’t enough for busy restaurants, and as demand for tables grows, you’ll have no other option but to buy more pagers (come to around £50 per unit).

Then there’s the question of maintenance. Unless you have so-called “coaster buzzers”, many customers will fumble and drop bulky pagers. You’ll have to pay for a pager system’s upkeep. Wear and tear, for instance, will chip away at a pager’s battery life. Since they’re your property, frequent repairs will be costly.

Terrace-restaurant-pager-alternative

Figure 2. Terrace by Bernhard Frank via Flickr

Guests Already Carry Smartphones

Restaurant pager systems are both outdated and superfluous. Not only do most guests view them with scorn — they also view them as unnecessary. Their smartphones have replaced the hand-out pager.

Imagine you walk into a busy restaurant: layers of chatter and shoulder-to-shoulder with other customers, both young and old, in a tight-cornered lobby. You know it’s highly unlikely that you’ll obtain a table straight away. Nevertheless, you reason with yourself and hope that the long wait will be worth the table. 

Soon you see the restaurant has a pager system. You go with the flow, take a pager, and then sit somewhere in the lobby — and if like 93 per cent of Millennials, you’ll take out your smartphone to pass the time. 

With a waitlist app, the pager function is already there: in the smartphone, already in the guest’s hand.

Further, a waitlist app trumps restaurant pager systems in two other ways.

First, pagers fail to provide customers with timely updates on their wait, leaving diners in the dark for approximately 40—45 minutes. On the other hand, a waitlist app sends guests timely updates on how long they have to go. Analysts at Harvard Business Review have shown that people prefer to wait with exact goals in mind

Second, a restaurant pager system locks the customer to the beeper’s range, technically acting as a ball and chain on their movements. These pager systems work best in barrier-free environments (e.g., less walls, the better), so they restrict the customer’s freedom of movement. Whereas, an app is all the better because it lets customers roam only to return later.

Wired Everywhere restaurant pager alternative

Figure 3. Wired Everywhere by Carlos Ebert via Flickr

Restaurant Pager Systems Fail to Keep Up

We live in an increasingly wireless world. Wherever there’s a restaurant, there’s likely an internet hotspot — especially if the venue is in an urban centre.

Compared to the speed of today’s wireless technologies, restaurant pager systems look like they belong in the 1990s (in fact, they’re an invention that peaked in the 90s).

All restaurant pager systems require a master transmitter in a restaurant’s front of house. Think of a radio station, transmitting audio to individual radios. Various models use various frequencies to do the work — meaning the more costly the setup, the higher the range on the pagers.

Yet in this day and age, pagers belong to a world separated from restaurant spaces. They’re a catch-all for other industries, built for other queue occasions, such as banks, factories, and clinics. In reality, smartphones could replace pager systems in these scenarios, but they’re undoubtedly a hindrance for restaurants, ill-adapted to the rush that a busy hospitality environment demands.

Restaurant Pager Systems are Inconvenient for Restaurants

Pagers are unsuited for restaurant environments because they take up unnecessary space. Typically, they recharge on mass units. If you’ve ever witnessed these before, a stack system allows restaurateurs to charge multiple pagers at once. A set of metal contacts on the bottom of the units mean you can place them atop one another and situate them like a tower.

Most pager providers will sell this as an asset. They’ll say the stack-function allows you to add more pagers as your business grows — but this inevitably takes up more room.

Pagers are also painfully, painfully irritating. That is to say, both the beep and flash functions are an ordeal for the customer. Holding a pager for an unspecified amount of time is annoying, forcing the customer to constantly anticipate the buzzer to detonate in a whirl of sound. 

If the wait goes beyond their initial wait quote, guests may even walk out. Sometimes they inadvertently (or accidently) leave with the pager in hand. When this happens, nothing will stop the customer from simply throwing their pager away into a nearby bin.

Pagers are also painfully, painfully irritating. That is to say, both the beep and flash functions are an ordeal for the customer. Holding a pager for an unspecified amount of time is annoying, forcing the customer to constantly anticipate the buzzer to detonate in a whirl of sound. 

If the wait goes beyond their initial wait quote, guests may even walk out. Sometimes they inadvertently (or accidently) leave with the pager in hand. When this happens, nothing will stop the customer from simply throwing their pager away into a nearby bin.

Many restaurants actually see this happen and end up having to buy replacements — typically around £80, depending on your provider. On the restaurant’s part, this cost is unreasonable; it’s probably the top reason to ditch restaurant pager systems altogether.  

Many restaurants actually see this happen and end up having to buy replacements — typically around £80, depending on your provider. On the restaurant’s part, this cost is unreasonable; it’s probably the top reason to ditch restaurant pager systems altogether.  

If you’re in a noisy environment both the beep and flash functions of a pager go unnoticed. If the wait goes beyond their initial wait quote, guests may even walk out. Sometimes they inadvertently (or accidently) leave with the pager in hand. Many restaurants see this happen and end up having to buy replacements — typically around £80, depending on your provider.     

Plus let’s not forget overheads. Electricity is a noteworthy concern. Top range pagers have a typical 36 hours of battery time — meaning you’ll charge these pagers at around 4—5 times a week. It’s not a very green method: more charging, more electricity, and more money spent.

In sum, the ball-and-chain effect of typical restaurant pager systems is inexpedient. 

Guests who prefer text reminders are growing in number. Give them the service they want — a free text reminder app. 

Simple and easy-to-use, Carbonara App requires minimal cost and onboarding — a major reduction from what you’d ever spend on restaurant pager systems. Thanks to smartphone technology, it’s now possible to communicate with guests without all the hassle.

Ditch the restaurant pager systems and improve your restaurant’s efficiency today. Contact us to find out how it works.