Applebee’s uses Waitwhile to improve the guest experience & save staff time
Apple American Group, a subsidiary of Flynn Restaurant Group
441 locations across 23 U.S. states
Apple American Group is the largest Applebee’s franchisee, operating 441 restaurants across 23 states.
The franchisee began in 1999 with just eight Applebee’s locations in Washington State. Apple American’s primary focus is to be an industry leading restaurant operator that delivers superior service and outstanding guest experiences. The franchisee continues to pursue opportunities to build new units and to smartly acquire additional restaurants. Apple American Group is part of Flynn Restaurant Group, which operates 280 Taco Bells, 133 Paneras, 367 Arby’s, 937 Pizza Huts, and 194 Wendy’s, making it the largest restaurant franchisee in the country.
Applebee’s is a casual, family-oriented restaurant that attracts people from all walks of life to come in for unpretentious fare without a long wait. When indoor dining shuttered during the pandemic, the buzzy, always busy (but not overcrowded) franchise took a big hit.
When it was time to partially reopen, the restaurant chain found itself struggling to manage crowds efficiently in a brand new dining landscape. In compliance with new social distancing mandates, diners had to wait outside, braving all kinds of weather. And staff struggled to manage paper lists and remember which car belonged to which guest, making for a chaotic experience for both diners and restaurant staff.
Flynn Restaurant Group Technology Manager Gil Brucken was asked to look for a waitlisting solution to help manage guests and increase staff efficiency.
After taking Waitwhile for a test drive, he liked the platform’s easy setup and use, its ability to run on the restaurants’ Android tablets, and that it was significantly more affordable than other solutions like Yelp Waitlist. He also appreciated the built-in enterprise features – such as single sign-on (SSO) – which made it possible to manage all 441 locations at once.
According to Gil, rolling the tool out to restaurant staff was a breeze because the application was very intuitive. All he had to do was create a one-pager outlining a 5-step process and share it with employees as part of their training.
Using Waitwhile as their queue management system, Applebee’s staff were able to create a virtual waitlist to eliminate crowds gathering in entryways and by the bar. Front of house staff could add guests to the waitlist at the host stand – or even meet arriving guests outside by the front door or at their cars.
Guests could wait in the comfort of their vehicles, while staff easily managed the queue from a tablet. When it was their turn to come in, guests would automatically get notified via Waitwhile’s 2-way messaging feature.
Allow customers to get in line virtually and wait from anywhere.
Keep an open line of communication and notify customers when it’s their turn.
Track entrances and automatically prompt visitors to join a virtual waitlist when you’re full.
Optimize resource and staffing allocation ahead of peak hours.
With Waitwhile’s virtual queue management system, all of Apple American Group’s Applebee’s locations increased efficiency. Staff no longer needed pen and paper, to search for guests’ cars, or to keep track of wait times. Waitwhile’s automatic notifications let guests know when their turn was coming up.
Both employees and guests were happier. Diners could get in line from the comfort of their cars and felt more in control, being able to message staff directly through the platform. Waitwhile also made it easier for the restaurant franchise to stay up to date with varying state mandates. In states that required guests to make reservations, Applebee’s locations were able to take advantage of Waitwhile’s booking feature to stay in compliance.
With business back to pre-pandemic levels, Waitwhile is helping Applebee’s adjust to a new dining landscape. Though the brand’s goal is to never have a wait, sometimes there’s more demand than seats in the dining room – especially on the weekends.
Waitwhile is a reliable safety net if it ever gets too crowded. Staff can always quickly power up the virtual waitlist and direct diners to sign up that way. Then, guests are free to wait wherever and get accurate wait time estimates. All in all, Gil says working with Waitwhile has been “a great partnership.”
“Waitwhile just works. It’s reliable and very easy for staff to pick up on their own.”
Manager, Restaurant Technology
Flynn Restaurant Group