How to Build a Waitlist App for your Restaurant

SteelKiwi Inc.
8 min readNov 30, 2020

Who doesn’t hate to wait? Probably everyone does. That’s why people choose restaurants that use whitelist software. It helps them know exactly when they’ll be seated so they’re free to do whatever they want until their table’s ready.

Source: by Valor Software

If you’re looking for a management system to let you take control of long lines and reduce wait times without charging you extra fees, waitlist software is the best way to go. With it, you’ll lose fewer guests to hunger, frustration, and your not-so-busy neighbor next door. Your staff can worry less about waitlists and more about what matters ― your guests. Treating every guest like a VIP before they even arrive means they’ll come back again and again.

Read on to learn about how waitlist software can empower your business.

What is a restaurant waitlist system?

Waitlist software is a queue management system that allows restaurants to control customer flow, manage the wait time, and improve staff’s efficiency. This type of software offers a win-win solution for both customers and restaurants. Customers can quickly join an online queue via their devices and monitor their place in line. Restaurants, in turn, can check the number of guests in the queue, manage the online waitlist, chat with customers, and send notifications.

Here’s what restaurant waitlist software looks like:


Restaurant waitlist software brings many benefits for restaurants. Let’s briefly consider them.

Transparent and efficient queues

A virtual queue management system helps restaurants improve waiting line processing. To join a digital queue, customers can just enter their name and contact details. Software then tracks the customer’s spot in the waitlist and predicts the flow of visitors. As a result, restaurants can reduce wait times.

Physical distancing

Going virtual can help your visitors stay safe. In addition to virtual queues, there are many other ways to go about developing COVID-safe environments in the restaurant industry like reducing the number of tables, reorganizing kitchens, rewriting menus, retraining personnel, and rethinking restaurant delivery services.

Improved employee efficiency

A virtual queue management system can help your personnel organize the restaurant’s work while avoiding the chaos of managing multiple waitlists at the same time. Additionally, this type of software lets your staff be aware of what they need to prepare for particular guests.

Better customer retention, conversions, and revenue

Not fixing your queue-related chaos can cost you customers. A waitlist app is what can help you provide transparent wait times and thus prevent profits and diners from walking out the door. You’ll be able to build customer loyalty, improve service quality, and reduce customer complaints.

Insights into customer data

Customer data can help you improve nearly every aspect of your business. You can better understand your restaurant performance and identify the hours with the most guests to make strategic adjustments. A restaurant waitlist app allows you to drill down into significant customer metrics like average wait times, average bookings, and number of walkaways.

Top waitlist app for restaurants

We browsed the best restaurant waitlist apps and singled out the most interesting.


Begun as a small web restaurant reservation service in 1998, OpenTable had already become one of the best US reservation systems a couple years later. Today, OpenTable helps more than 52,000 restaurants around the globe fill seats that might otherwise have gone empty.

With OpenTable, customers can search for a place to eat and join the waitlist of an OpenTable restaurant partner. They can search for restaurants using filters like food, price, location, and rating to narrow down results. Once a customer is on the waitlist, they can track their position in line and are notified when their table is ready.

Source: App Store

As for restaurant administrators, they can create a waitlist, notify customers about their places in line, manage the floor, check out the restaurant’s guestbook, access guests’ dining histories, and create reports ― all in the host app.


Here’s another popular restaurant waitlist software by Yelp, an American public company. It offers the website and app which publish crowd-sourced reviews about businesses including restaurants. It also operates an online reservation service called Yelp reservations.

Yelp partners with nearly 10,00 restaurants, helping them manage waitlists, limit guest interactions, control capacity, and streamline front-of-house operations. What’s interesting is that 81% of diners are more likely to come back to a restaurant that uses Yelp Waitlist.


With Yelp Waitlist, restaurants can have real-time access to waitlists and reserved tables, manage restaurant floor plans and waitlists, track guest preferences and histories, and generate reports.


TablesReady is a waitlist management and reservations app with SMS paging. It works well for all sorts of restaurants, hotels, pharmacies and doctors’ offices, hair salons and barbershops, bowling alleys, daycare centers, and other businesses interested in managing their customer waiting experience.


For guests, there are two ways to go about joining the waitlist of a TablesReady partner: by making a reservation on the restaurant’s website or by providing their contact details to the restaurant host/hostess. Once a customer joins the online queue, TablesReady texts them with specifics and a link to track their place in line.


As for the host app, restaurants can see customer responses and mark customers as in line, served, and canceled. To help restaurants no-shows, TablesReady estimates waits for each customer based on the party size.


Hostme is restaurant management software that features waitlist management as well as food ordering, table management, guest book, reservation management, analytics and reporting, and event management. The Hostme waitlist solution enables restaurants to accept orders over the phone, from their websites, and through social media accounts.


With the Hostme app, customers can join a restaurant’s waitlist remotely and get notifications when their table is ready. Diners can even let another party in ahead of them if they’re running late by skipping a turn. Additionally, if restaurant loyalty program members experience long wait times for a table, they can be rewarded for waiting.


Waitwhile is a waitlist app as well as scheduling software. With Waitwhile, guests can join the line from the comfort of their home.

Waitwhile features the host dashboard from which restaurants can manage multiple waitlists and notify guests when the restaurant is ready to accommodate them.

Source: Pinterest

To provide customers with a great experience, you need to know their interests and preferences. To help restaurants with this, Waitwhile allows them to collect customer data including staff workloads, average wait times, and the hour with the most guests.


NextME is a mobile app that helps restaurants, retailers, salons, healthcare providers, automotive businesses, and entertainment companies to manage their waitlist. The NextME Waitlist uses historical data to help businesses estimate more accurate wait times during the busiest hours.


There are two ways a guest can join the waitlist of a NextME partner restaurant: by calling the restaurant and leaving their details (such as name, phone number, party size, and special requests) to the host/hostess or by making a reservation themselves on the restaurant’s website. The latter requires restaurants to embed an HTML widget into their website. Once a customer joins the waitlist, NextME shoots them a message with a link to a website where they can track their place in line and check out the restaurant’s specials. Customers are then notified when they’re next in line so they can either cancel their reservation or confirm it.

Putting it all together: Off-the-shelf waitlist apps comparison

Let’s now put it all together and compare these off-the-shelf waitlist apps based on features and pricing.


Pros and cons of custom and off-the-shelf restaurant waitlist software

Even the best restaurant waitlist apps have drawbacks and may not be feasible for you. Below, we compare custom and off-the-shelf restaurant waitlist software to help you understand what’s right so you can make a wise choice.


Another crucial factor is pricing. With an off-the-shelf solution, you pay in small parts on a regular basis which may cost you in the long run. Say you’ve decided to go with the core plan of OpenTable. You’ll pay nearly $500 a year which sounds okay. But if you choose the pro plan, you’ll spend around $5.500 a year.

What about a custom solution? How much will it cost to create a restaurant waitlist app from scratch? Custom development may take a big bite out of your budget. However, it’s a one-time investment of this size. Plus, your design and functionality greatly influence the price. We suggest you get in touch with a software development company you’re considering to get a rough estimate for your project.

Solve queuing problems with your own waitlist management app

Accepting waitlist requests from multiple channels can be challenging. It’s quite likely that you’ll need a customized solution to meet your guests’ needs and allow your hosts to better manage walk-ins, market restaurant, and track statistics all in a single place. Even if you consider some of the off-the-shelf queue management apps, developing software from the ground up is still a smart decision.

At Steelkiwi, we aren’t new to restaurant app development. We’ve collaborated with small restaurants as well as large chains to help them increase their brand awareness, attract new customers, and improve business processes through custom mobile and web apps.

If you’ve decided to bring your lines from the physical dimension to the digital, share your ideas with us. We’d be happy to help!

SteelKiwi Inc.

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