Bugged About Restaurant Reservation Policies 

Drawing of girl standing outside, surrounded by mosquitoes.

Dining out is often on the fly. Many times, it’s just a casual meal. Then there are the special occasions with a group of besties, and you really want things to go smoothly. Planning ahead helps that happen.

My friend was turning 50 years old, and she planned to celebrate the milestone in style. We were thrilled when she invited a few of us out for dinner at a restaurant with a tempting menu.

We had a great time, but there was one aspect of our dining out experience that sadly diminished the fun and even left its scars on us for a good while afterward.

Here are the gory details...

Wanting to leave nothing to chance, the birthday girl called the restaurant a week in advance to ask about reservations. The manager told her that while they didn’t take reservations, she could call the restaurant when the group was 20 minutes away to be added to the waitlist.

Reassured by her conversation with the manager, she assumed seating would be easy. We all headed out on the night of our dinner, and my friend called to let them know we’d arrive in 20 minutes. That’s when things took a turn. We were told, “Oh no, we don’t work that way. You have to be here at the restaurant before we put you on a waitlist, and then it will be about 30 minutes before we’ll have a table for you.”

Wait, what?

Restaurants Give Mixed Messages About Call Ahead Seating

It didn’t help to tell them a manager had given different information a week ago. Policy is policy, right? It was too late for us to make a different plan. We were hungry and ready to celebrate!

When we arrived at the establishment and joined the waitlist, we were told to wait outside. Things got pretty itchy after that. Outside was not only humid and hot, it was also buzzing with mosquitoes. All of us were mercilessly bit.

Photo of Mike's leg covered in bug bites.

Evidence of the attack: my bug bites the next day

Thinking we needed to escape this scourge as quickly as possible, we opted for a “first available” table. That turned out to be one on the outdoor patio. The area was screened, at least keeping the bugs away, but it was oppressively Florida-in-the-summertime sticky hot.

We’re an indomitable bunch, so we did our best to enjoy the party despite these setbacks. Once I had a chance to think back on the whole experience, it really got me thinking about ways to avoid such hassles.

Can Restaurants Do a Better Job of Managing Waitlist and Seating Expectations?

In 2022, traditional reservations systems are full of bugs because real life often intervenes to mess up plans. It’s easy to create an itinerary, but it’s not at all easy to push human beings efficiently through it on either the provider or the customer side.

At Disney World, you can pay for an app that lets you skip some of the long lines. I asked my friend if she would have paid for priority service, to be seated promptly at a comfortable table. “Definitely!” she responded. But would everyone?

Once upon a time, if you wanted top service, you would tip the hostess. That’s no longer the norm in most places. Now it’s an egalitarian world, where showing up is the only way to prove you want service. Once you show up, you’re allowed to get in line. The Disney model doesn’t work everywhere.

With all this in mind, I let my thinking about this situation lead me down the problem-solving path of taking the pain out of waiting for a table. Keep reading to see where I landed.

EnRoute™ Seating Cuts Down on Wait Times with Proximity-Based Queuing

Our new technology, EnRoute, is a solution that would have made for a much different birthday party on that muggy Florida evening. EnRoute is a whole new way of joining waitlists that takes the guesswork out of arrival times to improve customer experiences and restaurant profits.

Here’s how my friend’s special birthday dinner could have been bug-free with EnRoute:

  1. Since the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, she opens an app to view the restaurant on a map and check its wait time a week in advance. This gives her an idea of how busy they’ll be the same day and time next week so she can plan our arrival accordingly.
  2. On the day of our dinner, as soon as she’s within the GPS* radius the restaurant allows for joining the waitlist, she makes a few clicks to let them know how many of us are coming and our seating preferences (inside please!).
  3. Artificial Intelligence kicks in to calculate our GPS-determined arrival time and place us at the appropriate spot on the waitlist. Then it coordinates my friend and the restaurant with in-app messages about expected arrival and wait times. If there are any delays for us or the restaurant, updates go out on both sides to recalculate service expectations.
  4. Once she crosses a geofenced line in the restaurant’s parking lot, my friend taps the check-in button on her phone to confirm an updated wait time. We now have the choice to stay in our air-conditioned cars, meet up in the parking lot for hello hugs, or browse a neighboring shop.
  5. My friend gets a final message to let us know our table is ready, and we happily head in so a completely relaxed hostess can take us to our table.

*Hate the idea of Big Brother? No worries! Join the waitlist on your own terms by using location sharing for just a brief moment at the check-in point.

What a huge difference this system would have made for my friend’s birthday party! No mixed messages from different staff members. No Bug Bites! No one is stressed about the wait because everyone (staff and hungry people) knows how long it’s going to be. Our dinner gets started on a happy note, making for higher spending and better reviews. Win-win!

Have you ever had a fun plan fall victim to mixed messages and unmanaged expectations? Tell us your he said/she said phone mishaps, wait time tragedies, and insufferable seating arrangements. We might publish your reservation fail story next!

Now think about the alternative. What if we could manage every waiting experience without all the uncertainty? That’s the plan! Subscribe below to stay up to date on our exciting new reservation system where all you have to say is, “I’m on my way.”

Floqque is revolutionizing reservations and waitlists with EnRoute.

This exciting technology takes the guesswork out of waiting for both restaurants and customers to create better dining experiences. EnRoute is a new type of reservation where customers simply say, “I’m on my way.” 

  • Phase 1 rollout launches real-time waitlists that use GPS and AI to coordinate actual arrival and wait times between restaurants and customers.
  • Phase 2 redefines advanced reservations by setting expectations and allowing for flexibility in arrival and party size.
  • Phase 3 will aggregate data to predict actual customer behavior as a forecasting and planning tool.

We’re also working on premium features to allow for in-app event organization. Follow the flow of our development when you subscribe to our email list!

For more than 30 years, Mike Wozniak has used his passion for finding innovative ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of businesses through the use of technology to redefine the way things are done. Mike is the founder of SoftwareKey.com, a cutting-edge software licensing technology provider, and the inventor of ArrivalOS™ and EnRoute™ by Floqque, a Predictive Queuing Platform. When he isn't working, he likes to travel and do burpees! Why do burpees on vacation? Just Because He Can!

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