NoWait Raises $10 Million to Help Diners Skip the Line-Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

NoWait Raises $10 Million to Help Diners Skip the Line

Long wait times for restaurant tables and lobby areas full of frustrated would-be customers could soon be a thing of the past. Several companies are creating apps to revolutionize the experience of dining out.

A Pittsburgh startup called NoWait Inc. has developed an app that replaces the paper-and-pencil wait list at restaurants with a digital system that allows diners to stay home, or roam wherever they want to, until their table is available.

NoWait just raised $10 million in new venture funding in a round led by Drive Capital. Earlier, the 25-employee startup raised $5.5 million in seed and Series A funding from Birchmere Ventures, Carnegie Mellon University, Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund, Innovation Works and Sand Hill Angels.

NoWait’s potential competitors range from large providers of restaurant reservations tech like OpenTable Inc., or Yelp Inc., to startups like Table8 and abInventio LLC, makers of the “line management” app QLess.

Diners can use NoWait’s free iOS and Android apps to find out how many minutes it will be until a restaurant can seat them, and to put their names on a digital wait list, even if they’re still en route.

On the restaurant side, the NoWait app lets a manager or hostess gather customers’ phone numbers and send an automatic text message when their table is ready. They can also use NoWait’s floor map feature, to make sure that parties of a certain size are seated where they should be, maximizing table utilization.

NoWait is being used by more than 1,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada today, and is responsible for seating more than five million diners a month, Chief Executive Ware Sykes said.

With a focus on casual restaurants, NoWait’s clients today include Buffalo Wild Wings, Eataly, First Watch, On The Border, Pizzeria Vetri, Texas Roadhouse and Village Whiskey.

Drive Capital founder and venture capitalist Chris Olsen points out that NoWait is building a massive “mobile network” and “large consumer audience for food on mobile.” That means the startup has the potential to do more than last-minute bookings for restaurants and their patrons, he said.

Mr. Sykes said the company plans to use its funding on hiring, and to create more tools for restaurants, diners and other app makers...Read more»

By: Lora Kolodny, Wall Street Journal