Keeping Tables Full With a Wait App

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Any busy restaurant turning over tables quickly can keep their tables full throughout the day. Read on below to find out how a wait app can help your restaurant seat guests as soon as they enter the front door. 

No-booking Restaurants Turn Over Tables Quickly

Accepting walk-ins only is a good model for extra busy restaurants. Your restaurant can benefit from being extra flexible and generate additional revenue from welcoming anyone who decides to dine with you, outside your expected customer base

The advantage of no-booking venues is this: these restaurants can never be stood up by diners. A restaurant that is busy at all times will always fill tables, and if your restaurant already practices this way of dining, you know what to expect — queues.

Being too busy can be problematic. Your restaurant will be unable to seat a large amount of waiting customers because tables are full. This has led some to believe that long queues indicate business is going well — find out why this is a myth

Here’s an example. Bao is among TimeOut magazine’s top no-booking restaurants in London. Located in Soho, the road it sits on is famous for its street-length queues, but Bao’s red-hot reputation ensures people return again and again.

Only a digital waitlist could make one of London’s most well-known queues disappear.

Really, people don’t want to stand around and wait. Matter of fact a study has shown that customers are only willing to wait 14 minutes in person before leaving the physical queue.

So how can you keep tables full while at the same time making the inevitable wait convenient for customers?


Figure 1. Montmarte Cafes by Pedro Szeleky via Flickr

What to Know About Apps for Restaurant Owners

An app will enable your restaurant to fill tables. All you need is a smartphone.

Imagine your restaurant during the golden hour — its busiest peak time. Tables are already full, guests are happily eating, and staff members are stepping between tables. But more guests are arriving and want to sit in. As one party begins to leave, your head-of-staff will want to fill that table as soon as possible — not leave it empty for 10—15 minutes.

A wait app can help do this for you. In a phrase it replaces the pen-and-paper system with a smartphone interface, making guestlist management much easier. 

Using a virtual queue a wait app will let customers leave only to return when their wait is over — ready to fill the next table that opens. If you’re curious about how this process operates, check out our separate post on how letting customers leave will ensure they return, creating a convenient solution for everyone.


Figure 2. Window Shop by Ian Gampon via Flickr

How Guests Return on Time — Standby Seating

The most efficient way to deal with frequent customers is to create a revolving door system of your restaurant’s tables. As soon as one party prepares to leave, the next guest is ready and waiting to be seated. 

We have called this standby seating — a specialist technique that maximises your waitlist, handling guest turnover efficiently. Read about the ins and outs with our guide telling you everything you need to know about standby seating.

So now with customers returning at the precise point to be seated, your restaurant can keep tables full — but how does this work in practice?

4 Ways to Keep Tables Full

A wait app’s callback features ensure this will work. Here’s our step-by-step recommendation:

  1. Keep an eye on guests. Regularly ask yourself, “Who is getting ready to leave?” When you notice at least one table opening, then it’s time to use a virtual queue’s callback feature. Open the app, navigate the waitlist, and select the next party.
  2. Notify up to two to three parties. This is because it will take some guests longer to return than others. Since no one can know who will be slowest, this means your restaurant will be able to seat the next guest — i.e. the first to re-enter. 
  3. Create a flow-in system. By the time one party is seated, other tables will open up. Then, by the time the other parties return, they will be in the restaurant on standby, knowing another table is opening soon. A digital waitlist creates this flow.
  4. Never hold a table for more than 5 minutes. Let’s say a returning party is taking longer than expected. There’s no point in holding the table. (If truly necessary, hold it for 5 minutes.) With a flow-in system, you can seat whoever is at hand and maintain a steady turnover.


Figure 3. Working Hard by Sasha Krishnamurthy via Flickr

Wait Timers are Also Helpful 

The Carbonara App comes with a very useful feature for walk-in restaurants: wait timers. 

Whenever your head-of-staff informs a customer that they will have to wait and inputs their details in the guest list, the app’s waitlist will display a wait timer beside their name. This gradually counts up (starting from 0 minutes), and then lets the customer know when they will have to return to be seated. 

This way customers can beat the queue. The advantage is that as the timer closes to completion, the customer can strategically move toward the restaurant to return at the exact minute. 

If for some reason the customer’s wait time exceeds, you can always notify them via the app’s 2-way communication.

Also, Carbonara App automatically calculates daily statistics reports. Normally restaurants would have to either hire someone or do this themselves, using intricate and time-consuming formulas to determine the best queueing model that works for them. If maths isn’t your strong point, this is a hassle. 

Now you can discover average wait times automatically, offering your customers a more reliable idea of how long they will have to wait — all at the touch of your fingertips.

Don’t believe us? Let Carbonara App help keep your restaurant’s tables full — truly free! Download and test it out.