The app is attempting to digitize the waitlist clipboard. 

By Maria Yagoda
Updated November 02, 2018
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Credit: Adrian Peacock/Getty Images

Yelp is throwing its hat into the restaurant reservations ring with two new features designed to minimize the inconvenience of waiting. Currently in beta at participating restaurants in NYC, San Francisco, L.A., and Chicago, the "Nowait On My Way" feature allows diners to let a business know that they are en route. And the new "Nowait Kiosks," which are meant to be located where the hostess podium would normally stand, are the company's attempt at digitizing the waitlist clipboard, so diners can add themselves to a digital list once they enter a restaurant, so they'll receive status updates on their phone.

The company acquired Nowait in 2017, but the kiosk feature is new, allowing diners to roll up to a restaurant, write their names on a touchscreen, and get an alert when their table is ready, saving front-of-house staff the headache of dealing with hoards of impatient guests. The new On My Way feature, however, is for guests who haven't yet arrived at the restaurant but have an estimate of when they will and the size of their party, allowing them to alert the restaurant and get a headstart on the waiting process.

"With this information, restaurants can better predict visits, be prepared for diners when they arrive and seat up to 10% more diners during non-busy hours," reads Yelp's blog announcing the feature, which is still in beta. "The feature gives users peace of mind, knowing that the restaurant is now expecting them, and gives restaurant staff information to better plan for customers."

This streamlined digitization of restaurant waits is long-overdue. There is nothing more stressful than a chaotic, confusing system that makes you feel like you may have gotten lost in the mix, because the group that arrived five minutes after you just got a table, and now you have to ask the hostess, who is just as frazzled as you are, what the deal is. And you are very hungry.

Yelp is not the first company to tackle this problem. This year, OpenTable redesigned its app to make day-of reservations easier.