What Yelp’s Acquisition Of Nowait Means For Its Local Restaurant Partners

Local restaurants in many cases have a love/hate view of Yelp; the $40M purchase of Nowait could make the local guide more valued by restaurants.

Yelp’s all-cash $40 million purchase of  Nowait, a mobile platform that allows restaurants to manage their waitlist and lets diners get in line remotely, reflects the local guide’s growing confidence that its shift to mobile from desktop has been working.

By “working,” Yelp has spent the last few years attempting to accelerate its ability to serve as a bridge between consumers and local businesses on multiple fronts. In particular, Yelp has assiduously sought to position its reviews as just one part of its many services, as opposed to being viewed as a “reviews site.”

To be sure, the reviews have often rankled local businesses, particularly restaurants. But as Yelp has added more services like booking tables with Yelp Reservations and ordering food for pickup and delivery through Yelp Eat24, the local guide has been better able to assert itself as an assistant to SMBs that often can’t afford to manage such offerings on their own.

Satisfying On-Demand Impatience

While the idea of Nowait — on its own, the app allowed restaurant diners to add their name to list before actually showing up at a place — may seem like a fairly mundane concept, it can make a difference for restaurants retaining customers.

For example, in these impatient days of “on-demand” and “micro-moments,” consumers are apt to go to another restaurant if the wait is too long. So a restaurant that can provide the comfort of knowing when a consumer will get a table is one that has a distinct advantage over a rival eatery that keeps diners guessing.

In that sense, Nowait has served as a key complement to Yelp Reservations and Eat24. The Nowait system also eases other basic restaurant management headaches by replacing paper lists or handheld buzzers with a simple experience delivered via smartphone, helping to drive more business for busy restaurants while meeting the needs of time strapped diners.

In addition, Nowait has given Yelp immediate scale in terms of offering a foundation for new restaurant partners to the local guide. The two-year-old Pittsburgh startup has signed up over 4,000 casual dining restaurants.

Yelp’s In The Hospitality Business

“Since launching our free consumer app — and, in turn, a two-way network between non-reservation, casual-dining restaurants and their guests — Nowait has been a win-win for thousands of restaurants and millions of consumers, and we use data to make them both more successful,”Nowait CEO Ware Sykes told told GeoMarketing in October. “We’re a tech startup, but at our core we’re a hospitality-first company and we are all about delighting restaurants and guests alike; we do that by creating magical moments throughout the dining experience. With the Yelp partnership, we are uniquely positioned to connect our restaurants directly with the largest consumer/restaurant application in the market.”

There is significant potential here for Yelp, which cites data from Statista that 54 percent of Americans have eaten in a casual dining restaurant monthly — three times the percentage who have eaten at fine dining restaurants.

“Yelp already plays a big role in millions of purchase decisions every day as consumers actively seek out businesses and services that save them time and money. The full integration of Nowait allows us to provide real-time seating availability that better equips diners to make informed decisions,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp co-founder and chief executive officer. “Nowait has quickly become an important feature for Yelp users and a valuable addition to our overall restaurant offerings. With this acquisition, we’ll make even bigger strides in the restaurant industry by allowing Yelp users to more quickly move from search and discovery to transacting at a local business.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.