Dr. Gordon C. Baylis
Vice President of Research
Why Wait? Bowling Green pair create app that provides wait times at restaurants
|Author: Justin Story, The Daily News, Published: December 7, 2011|
Date: Friday, December 16th, 2011
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Eric Littleton and Jon Matar partnered on the creation of WhyWait, which people can download onto their smartphones beginning Dec. 21.
Operating out of an office at the Western Kentucky University Research and Development Center, Littleton and Matar have been reaching out to local restaurants about signing up for WhyWait.
Restaurants that are signed on to carry the app are able to offer up-to-the-minute wait times, nightly specials and other features to users.
“A lot of the restaurants we’ve talked to are very intrigued by the prospect of reaching their customers in real time,” Littleton said.
Littleton got the idea for an app a couple of years ago after a night out that did not go according to plan.
“I was out on a date, we went to three different restaurants and they all had hour-and-a-half wait times,” Littleton said.
He and Matar had discussed many other business concepts and ideas for startup companies, but when smartphone sales proliferated this year, they both felt the time was right to revisit Littleton’s idea from earlier and develop WhyWait.
Matar left a job at Bank of Lexington around the end of last year, returned to Bowling Green to rejoin Littleton, who had been continuing his education at WKU, and the two went about writing a business plan and securing investors for their new venture.
In developing the app, Matar and Littleton looked to expand the scope of its capabilities beyond simply having restaurants give customers an idea of how long they would have to wait for a table.
“In the beginning it was about wait times, but then we decided to give restaurants something in return,” Matar said. “We wanted to make this like a website where they could customize their profiles, sort of make it a Facebook for restaurants.”
Under the concept, restaurants that sign up to be included in WhyWait receive a small tablet computer on which they can build their profile, with estimated wait times updated intermittently each day.
Profiles can also include a restaurant’s online footprint, showing each time someone has posted about the restaurant on Twitter, checked in on Facebook or posted an online review.
Restaurants can reach out to customers on WhyWait by sending nightly or weekly specials to users via email and text message, as well as posting bar seating availability, happy hours and special events.
For customers, the app should have the effect of reducing the chance of being stuck with a lengthy wait for a table, Matar said, while restaurants have another outlet to promote their business in a unique way.
“Restaurants get marketing data that shows them how many people are checking out their profile, when they’re looking at it and how many users we send to your restaurant,” Matar said.
Working with Interapt, a Louisville company that develops mobile technologies for companies, Littleton and Matar have ambitious plans for expanding WhyWait’s reach.
The two have hired mangers for operations and information technology, and are seeking people to fill marketing positions at their startup. Employees in Louisville and Lexington are reaching out to restaurants in those cities to get them signed on to WhyWait, and Littleton hopes to introduce the product to more nearby cities over the next several months.