Yelp Rolls Out Nowait Nationally To Deepen Ties With Casual Dining Restaurants

The move follows Yelp's investment this summer in Nowait, a mobile platform that allows restaurants to manage their waitlist and lets dinners get in line remotely.

Yelp is broadening its restaurant services beyond its reservations tools by bringing its partnership with Nowait, a mobile platform that lets consumers virtually hold their place in line at casual dining establishments.

Back in August, as Yelp continued to see gains from its shift in emphasis from desktop to mobile, the local guide said it was investing in two-year-old Nowait.

“With Yelp, we are getting much more than just an $8 million financial investment; we are able to dramatically expand our consumer footprint giving access to our restaurants to millions of more diners overnight,” Nowait CEO Ware Sykes told GeoMarketing.

A Two-Way Network

“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,” Sykes added. “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.”

At the moment, the Pittsburgh startup had signed up over 4,000 casual dining restaurants.The number of restaurants signed up with Nowait is expected to rise quickly thanks to Yelp’s audience reach.

Nowait’s kickoff with Yelp began in Pittsburgh, followed by Tampa, Atlanta, Chicago, and St. Louis. Based on what Sykes called the “phenomenal success in those markets,”  agreed the time was right to go further.

“Our partnership with Yelp affords us the opportunity to expand our network exponentially overnight and find a value-added strategic partner who shares our passion for great restaurants and a great guest experience. In getting to know the folks at Yelp, we realized there was a great opportunity to add value for both businesses,” Sykes said.

Restaurant Services Expansion

Some of the restaurants that have signed on in conjunction with the wider Yelp deal include:

  • Pastaria, St. Louis, MO
  • Oddfellows, Dallas, TX
  • First Watch, Sunrise, FL
  • Goody Goody Burgers, Tampa, FL
  • Emporio: A Meatball Joint, Pittsburgh, PA

“Our partnership with Nowait enables us to continue to expand our consumer offering in restaurants, one of our most important and highly trafficked categories,” CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said at the time. “In the coming months, Nowait will be integrated onto Yelp Platform, enabling our consumers to see current wait times at thousands of restaurants and get in line via the Yelp app when there’s a wait.”

A year earlier, the Yelp Now restaurant reservation and online ordering service was launched as part of the company’s evolving response to the rise of the “On-Demand Revolution” that has blurred the lines between digital and physical marketing. On top of that, Yelp acquisition of e-commerce based takeout/delivery service Eat24 in February 2015 also helped add another service layer to restaurants. And despite restaurants complaints about bad Yelp reviews, the offerings ultimately provide necessary value in the competitive food services landscape.

Getting In Line

Like those tools, Nowait is being integrated into Yelp’s mobile. Aside from building up its ties the local restaurants in the casual dining space, the synthesis between Nowait and Yelp represents another trend in the app space: offering a bridge between branded platforms so users don’t have to jump from one to another.

“The integration benefits Nowait by enabling more guests to get in line at thousands of restaurants nationwide, while also benefitting Yelp by offering an additional way to serve their restaurant customers and Yelp users,” Sykes said. “In turn, the integration drives more Yelp guests to casual-dining restaurants, and allows Yelp users to check wait times and get in line remotely from their mobile phones. It’s truly a win-win for everyone.”

In addition to the working alliance with Yelp, Nowait is using the local guide’s investment to expand its network of restaurants and consumers, while continuing to invest in its product and technology roadmap, Sykes said.

As for what’s next, Nowait is looking for other paths to drive growth, including the consideration of other platform partners.

“Since launching our guest app and having seated millions since then, we have become industry experts in giving people back the most important thing in life — their time,” Sykes said. “Partnering with Yelp offers their users immediate access to Nowait’s thousands of casual-dining restaurants currently using the product, including the largest multi-location chains in the country. We are always open to new opportunities that will provide superior hospitality to as many guests – and restaurants – as possible.”


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.