Tuesday, July 7th, 2020 .

From the perspective of a restaurant customer:

If you had told me in January that 2020 was going to the year of a pandemic, that wearing a mask to the supermarket would be necessary, and we’d all be forced into quarantine for weeks on end, I would have laughed out loud. This year has been nothing but strange, I think we all agree on that, and as we begin to transition into “normalcy,” we are all curious as to what the new normal will look like. And as nerve wracking as it may be, I personally can say I am excited. I’m excited to see friends and family, I’m excited to go to the beach, and I’m most excited to get back to restaurants. 

I’ve always had an immense passion and love for food, and as much as I love to cook, I am very over it. As cities and states begin to roll out their reopening plans, restaurants are opening their doors to customers for both patio and indoor dining options. But even as restrictions lift, there are still rules and regulations in place to keep both guests and staff safe, which I appreciate deeply. Although I am excited to sit with friends and enjoy a meal at my favorite places, I also want to ensure that we are being safe and remaining healthy.

My favorite restaurant might not look identical to pre Coronavirus times, nor are the rules in place going to be the same. But, as a guest, it’s important to respect and embrace these differences. My server will more than likely be wearing a mask, I may not be able to sit at a table with 10+ of my closest friends, and I may be asked to wait in my car, rather than at the bar, for my table. All of these changes are ok! I will survive! The restaurants are doing the best they can during a seriously challenging time and it’s important as guests to show up, show support, and show understanding. 

The list of differences from past to present can go on and on, but I think focusing on the future and adapting to what many are calling the “new normal” is what is most important. Restaurants are equipped with the best systems, staff, and regulations and we now have to be the best customers and come equipped with all they ask for. 

Top Three Things to Remember When Dining Out:

Social Distance: Remember to stay 6 ft. away from anyone outside of your party, when possible. To help both the customers and the staff during this transition, restaurants may invest in an app like Waitlist Me. Waitlist Me provides staff with easy and effective ways to manage their waitlist and reservations both in Coronavirus and non-pandemic times. Being able to send a text message to a guest when their table is ready so they don’t have to wait inside is a great feature for reducing crowds. 

Hygiene, hygiene, and more hygiene! It may be the restaurant’s job to sanitize more frequently and ensure their staff is healthy; but it is your job to always wash your hands, and to check your own health before walking in the doors.

Respect the guidelines put in place by each individual restaurant. Many restaurants are urging guests to wear masks when possible. Some are asking you to please sanitize your hands before entering. And, others have detailed layouts for guests to follow to help prevent exposure. The list goes on, so pay attention and read the signs! 

You might look at this list and scoff, but remember, the restaurant may not look the same and the rules might not be the same but the food IS still the same, and that’s really what is important. So if you’re like me and you have a deep admiration for all things food, then get out and support your favorite spot (and all their new quirks) – again, and again, again. 

Thursday, June 18th, 2020 .

COVID-19 hit the United States hard in March and shut down many businesses. Along with closures came new safety regulations for restaurants, for those that were able to stay open at all. When dining rooms and patios were forced to close, many restaurants moved to take-out only and created elaborate plans to ensure the safety of customers and staff. As cities and states have begun to slowly allow businesses to reopen, restaurants have been faced with a multitude of new regulations and guidelines for ensuring the safety of their operations.

What To Think About Before Re-Opening:

There are quite a few factors to consider when starting to re-open restaurants. Building trust is key. Although most people are itching to return to their normal life, many also want to make sure that places they go are upholding strict guidelines and rules to ensure the safety of guests, employees, and families. A few ways to build this trust and keep customers and happy and coming back to your restaurant:

    –   Maintain distancing guidelines between guests and staff.

    –   Increase the amount of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting that is done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

    –   Update your illness policy to include fever and respiratory symptoms and ensure that sick people are staying home.

    –   Have staff wear masks when possible.

    –   Ensure that existing and new employees are trained on proper hygiene, health policies, and guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting.

    –   Follow recommendations from the CDC as well as local and national public health authorities.

This might seem like a lot to implement, and it might take a bit of time to adjust, but there are apps, such as Waitlist Me, that can help with some of these challenges

Keeping Crowd Sizes Down with Waitlist Me

Another important factor to a smooth re-opening is ensuring that there are rules in place to limit the crowd sizes in the restaurant. Currently, no one wants to eat with someone hovering next to their table waiting for a seat, nor do people want to be stuck in a crowded waiting area. Waitlist Me can help in a couple ways.

Guests can put their name in with the hostesses and then freely wait elsewhere to be notified of a table opening via text. When a guest is added to the waitlist, they will receive a confirmation text message that will include a link to the restaurant’s public waitlist, allowing them to see where they are in line. They will also receive a text message when their table is ready. This type of consistency not only improves the waiting experience, but also helps with social distancing during the Coronavirus Era. Your customers can wait where they like, with more room to breathe and relax, without fear of missing out on a table.

Allowing Remote Check In

Waitlist Me also offers Self Check In as an option for guests to check wait times and add themselves to the waitlist. This feature can be enabled for Google as well as integrated into a website with the Waitlist Me Widget. Customers can also send reservation requests via the widget, cutting down on the need for phone calls to take reservations, and saving your staff time.

Creating New Floor Plans with Waitlist Me

Maintaining social distancing guidelines is very important to guests and employees. States are implementing rules and regulations that uphold these guidelines, such as limiting dining rooms to 50% capacity or keeping tables at least 6 ft. apart. With these new challenges, it can help to have a flexible way to update and manage floorplans. Waitlist Me lets you easily adjust your available tables to your capacity. The floorplan view can also help visualize a new plan prior to moving the tables to ensure the set up makes sense and allows for proper distancing.

These are a few of the ways Waitlist Me can help, and more can be found on our website.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020 .

After mere weeks in quarantine, Americans went hog-wild with their new pet adoptions. Instagram feeds are packed with newly adopted furry critters, and there’s no sign of a let-up any time soon. If the coronavirus has a single silver lining, this just might be it.

With the flurry of potential pet parents, now is the perfect time to put your best paw forward. Enter Waitlist Me, a waitlist and reservation app that will help you score a gold star for customer service and keep your customers, volunteers, and pets as healthy as possible during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are some ways animal shelters can use Waitlist Me right now to facilitate pet adoptions during COVID-19 and beyond.

#1. Corral crowds in their cars

Our collective new normal involves all sorts of protocols to keep us safe and healthy. We have adapted: We’re wearing masks in public, we’re standing 6 feet apart, and we’re shopping from the comfort of our cars to minimize the spread of coronavirus.

Enlisting cars as a crowd control tool is easy to do with Waitlist Me. Use our custom text notification feature to share simple coronavirus instructions with your customers, like to wait in their car until they are notified.  You can include this in the confirmation text that customers receive when you check them in or they schedule themselves.  Then when you are ready for them, just press a button to send them a notification it is their turn. If they reply back to a text you will see their message in the Waitlist Me app, and our Pro service includes an option to send open text responses to these messages for things like answering questions.

#2. Spread out demand with appointments

Another way to avoid a throng of eager adopters busting down your door is to encourage customers to make appointments.  This can help spread out demand to less busier times or can be used to avoid common bottlenecks that might require a specific staffer or area of your business. It can also help ensure you have the right number of staffers and volunteers when and where you may need them. 

Customers can use Waitlist Me’s web widget to quickly schedule an appointment with a few clicks, so they’ll be assured of their cuddle time and you’ll save staff’s time by letting people self-schedule. The Pro version of the service also comes with additional ways to customize the widget and set scheduling limits.

#3. Keep groups separate—and spaces sanitized

Some shelters across the nation are seeing their traffic skyrocket up to 90 percent! Because shelters are designed to make the most out of limited space, you often find yourself in tight quarters—not great when we need to be particularly germ-conscious.

That’s where Waitlist Me’s resource management feature comes into play. It’s completely flexible, making it easy to reconstruct the layout of your workspace within the app. When guests check in, you can assign them to a staff member or to an area, like your kitten play room, an application area, or a visiting room where they can get to know different animals. Once those guests leave, you know exactly where they’ve been—and you can sanitize accordingly.

And because you can use Waitlist Me on multiple devices, all your employees and volunteers can see where everyone is with a single glance. This lets you minimize potential contact as well as the need to have groups of guests pass each other in narrow spaces. Win-win!

Thursday, April 30th, 2020 .

The week coronavirus hit the United States, grocery stores around the nation announced a similar plan: They were going to stagger shopping times to minimize the spread of COVID-19 to the sectors of the population thought to be most vulnerable, the elderly and the immune-compromised.

Most stores’ plans restricted an hour or two of morning grocery shopping time to these customers—and in doing so, introduced a new phrase to the lexicon: staggered waiting.

Wait. Isn’t all waiting staggered?

The short answer: nope.

The old-school, American-style queue amounts to a mosh pit of toe-tapping customers. During normal circumstances, that’s not a good thing. It’s frustrating for your guests and it often leads to lost business. During a pandemic, it’s even worse. You don’t want tons of people crowded together, huffing hot air all over each other!

Waitlists and reservation tools, like Waitlist Me, help businesses stagger waiting in a way that’s become quite familiar. For business owners, it helps even out the traffic flow, ensuring excellent customer service and zero employee overwhelm. For customers, it ensures a positive, efficient experience. Win-win!

Grocery stores are using the idea of staggered waiting a bit differently than most of us are used to, but it’s not actually a new idea. In fact, you’ve probably experienced it before.

How billion-dollar businesses use staggered waiting

Disneyland, the pinnacle of efficient queues, uses a staggered waiting system to provide an extra-special experience to its VIP guests, many of whom visit the parks through organizations like Make A Wish. It’s also offered as a premium, upgraded feature for ticketholders.

Another example of staggered waiting happens weekly at many Target stores across the country. The big box retailer has offered sensory-free shopping hours for customers who are sensitive to light, noise, and crowds for years. It’s been a huge success, especially for those on the autism spectrum.

Ways your business can use staggered waiting today

If you’re looking for new ways to control crowds or traffic patterns, staggered waiting is a concept you should explore. Not sure how that might look for your workplace? Creative ideas can come from different places, and you can look around at what others are doing.  Here are a few examples of how businesses can stagger demand to improve workflows and better cope with COVID-19.

Quick tip: Use Waitlist Me’s custom text notifications to share new waiting policies or instructions with your clients and customers.

– Veterinary office using morning hours for feline appointments and afternoon hours for canine appointments to keep small waiting areas calm.

– Restaurants offering special deals or menu items at different times of the day to encourage people to dine at off-peak hours.

– Tutoring center facilitating study material pick-up staggered by the first letter of students’ last names.

– Auto mechanic offering reverse delivery appointment windows to pick-up cars (and meet with customers) at home rather than at the shop.

– Local organic farmer providing fresh produce home delivery staggered by their customers’ area.

– Doctor’s office splitting patient appointments by background. Immune-compromised and elderly patients are diagnosed car-side, while other patients come inside the office.

– Family-owned pharmacy providing special hours for curbside delivery and in-store pick-up.

Monday, April 27th, 2020 .

These days, we’ve started talking about the world in terms of B.C. and D.C.—that’s “before coronavirus” and “during COVID-19.” Though we are eager to move into the A.C. era (“after coronavirus,” naturally) even the most optimistic projections put that at least 6 months from now.

‘Til then, we’re adapting. For people working from home, that means video conferences at dining room tables. For those who are keeping restaurants, stores, offices, and other essential businesses open, that means embracing new ways of getting the job done.

One of the most popular ways business owners are staying open while minimizing the spread of coronavirus is to embrace touch-free or contact-free service. 

What is touch-free service?

Touch-free service limits the spread of the novel coronavirus by reducing the number of people who touch an item. The danger with this virus is that it’s very contagious. When you decrease how many individuals handle, say, a pizza box, you lessen the risk that one of those individuals will transmit the virus to the recipient—or to another employee who comes into contact with the box.

Implementing touch-free service is a more complex preventative measure than, say, requiring all employees to wear a mask. Going low-contact or contact-free requires business owners and managers to consider their entire workflow from start to finish so they can decide how to best protect themselves, their workers, and their customers.

Tools like Waitlist Me, a waitlist and reservation/appointment app, are one piece of the puzzle. Now, let’s see how that puzzle piece fits into some strategies that can be used across a diverse array of businesses.

Strategies for providing touch-free service using Waitlist Me

Pickup outside – Whether customers are picking up food, medicine, or other items they have ordered, they may not need to come into your building to get them. Waitlist Me can be used to confirm their order with a text message that can also communicate instructions on what to do when they arrive. Customers can reply to texts when they arrive and either wait in their cars or outside the door in a more open area for their orders to be brought to them. With Waitlist Me Pro there is also an option to send open text replies to customer texts for things like clarifying questions or letting them know if more time is needed for their order.   

Limit numbers inside – When allowing people inside to dine, shop, or be treated, Waitlist Me can help avoid crowded waiting areas and limit the number of people in the building. Simply add customers to the waitlist when they arrive and allow them to walk around outside or wait in their car until you are ready for them. They can check their places in line from their phones using the public waitlist feature, and you can press a button to text them when it’s their turn. You can even have your staff greet them outside or add them to the list when they pull into the parking lot. 

Reduce points of contact – There are additional ways to increase safety by cutting down on person-to-person interactions for customers arrivals. Post information on your website or a sign on your door asking customers to call or use the Waitlist Me web widget to add themselves to the waitlist, rather than entering the building to do so in person. The widget can help show how busy you are, so people can have a better idea of when to arrive. Or they can schedule an appointment or reservation that you can approve and manage in the app. With Waitlist Me Pro there are also simple scheduling controls for business hours and hourly availability that can help stagger the number of people visiting your business across the day.