Those hockey puck-style restaurant coaster pagers have been around for what seems like forever. They began being adopted by restaurants around 1995, right about when our CEO was building his first website. Aside from adding groundbreaking features like buzzing, waterproofness, built-in advertising, and the ability to tell you when you're out of range, restaurant pagers haven't changed much. That's a pretty poor record of innovation. They're still expensive and annoying for customers.
Meanwhile, a whole new generation of technology has developed to modernize your restaurant waitlist by bringing it online, with the ability to send notifications to your guests' own mobile devices with the click of a button. Here are the top 15 reasons why these waitlist apps and paging systems are better than a restaurant paging system:
- Costs Less. Restaurant paging systems will set you back at least $1,000 up-front, and that includes only a few pagers. Our customers tells us they have to replace 1-2 pagers per month due to loss or breakage, and each one of those is $50. So, $1,000 up-front plus $50-$100 per month compared with a monthly cost of $69.95 for TablesReady?
- Unlimited Capacity. Think you will ever have 25 parties on your waitlist? Well, guess what? If you use a traditional restaurant paging system, you'll need to have at least 25 working buzzers available. That's around $1,250. With a digital waitlist, you can have an unlimited number of parties on your waitlist without paying a penny more.
- Unlimited Range. Nothing is more annoying to customers than being confined to a limited area to wait. Wait times go by faster when customers can choose how and where they spend the wait, which makes them more likely to come back.
- Eliminates Crowds, Doesn't Discourage New Guests. When you let your guests wait on their terms, they won't hang out in your foyer or by your host stand or register. This means that new customers don't get turned off by long lines and crowds and will put their name down.
- Easier to Read, Easier to Manage. When you use a restaurant paging system, you are probably using a notepad to track your waitlist. Names are hard to read, cross-outs pollute your list and make it easy to miss people, and any reservations you have are in a different place. Digital waitlists let you sort, search, and filter your list. You can see at a glance how long each party has been waiting, and whether they've been waiting longer than you quoted. You can easily see upcoming reservations right within your waitlist. This makes it so much easier to seat the right group at the right time, without frustrating people.
- Better Wait Time Estimates. When hostesses get busy and stressed, they quote overly-long wait times — as much as as twice the actual wait the party experiences. This is a huge driver of groups abandoning their waits. TablesReady, on the other hand, uses your historical wait time data by party size, day of week, and time of day to estimate your current wait based on your current waitlist. These estimates significantly improve the accuracy of the quoted wait time and increases guest retention. More guests mean more turns mean more money.
- Keeps Hosts Meeting & Greeting. When hosts can be more efficient managing your waitlist, they can spend more time and bring better energy to meeting and greeting your customers. The front of house staff are a critical component of delivering on your service promise, and if they're harried or stressed, they won't be able to present your restaurant's best face.
- Gives You Lots of Data. With pager systems or just pen and paper, you throw away your wait time data ever night. Systems like TablesReady keep track of all your parties, notifications, and waits and give you easy-to-read charts so you can track your wait times over time and make improvements.
- Nothing to Charge Up or Maintain. Waitlist apps are there when you need them. Just open things up on your tablet. Those restaurant paging system vendors make a bunch of money off selling you warranties and doing repairs. That's because these coaster pagers break all the time. Plus, you have to make sure you charge them and clean them every night. It's just one more hassle for you that you don't need, and won't have if you use a waitlist app.
- Cleaner. These things go from person to person. They're gross. Customers don't want to touch them, let alone carry them around with them for an hour. Let them use the device they're already carrying.
- Text or Call With Customized Message. Restaurant paging systems give you one choice: buzz your patrons. With digital waitlists, you can send less obtrusive SMS messages, and if people don't respond, you can click to send an automated voice phone call. Best of all, you can write whatever you want for your notification. One of our favorite notifications is for a bowling alley customer that writes "Get ready to roll!" to begin its alert. These messages can enhance your brand and the customer experience.
- Can Show People Their Place In Line. Digital waitlists often have a customer-facing "public" waitlist that allows restaurants to show their guests their place in line, and even send them a link to it in the confirmation text. Not all restaurants want this, but this is something that restaurant paging systems simply cannot offer.
- Identify and Reward Loyal Customers. Restaurant paging system are "dumb." They don't know anything about your guests. Digital waitlists, however, can identify repeat customers by their phone number. This allows you to make notes on their account to provide better service and to reward your most loyal customers to keep them coming back.
- Can View Your Waitlist From Anywhere. When you use pen and paper for your waitlist, there's only one copy and it's usually sitting at the host stand. This makes it hard for hostesses or managers who are walking the floor to identify which tables that are getting up soon should be used for upcoming parties, because they don't have the list in front of them. With a digital waitlist, however, you can login from multiple devices — including mobile phones — at the same time and view the same data everywhere. Best of all, this data gets updated in real-time as guests are added or served.
- View Guest Replies. Restaurant pagers are one-way communication devices only. Text messaging is a two-way street. If you ask guests to confirm or cancel their place in line via your confirmation or ready notification, you can see that information when they reply right away. This helps make sure you don't wait for a party to come back for too long before alerting the next group.