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How to use Yelp Waitlist to manage your takeout orders

Photo by Terry Jaskiw

With most restaurant dining rooms closed across the country due to COVID-19, it’s no surprise that takeout activity is through the roof. Strong demand for favorites like pizza and wings are driving a lot of business to restaurants in those categories, as evidenced by the fact that chicken-wing restaurants and pizzerias are up 93 percent and 83 respectively in the most recent Yelp Coronavirus Economic Impact Report.

This sudden surge in demand amid rapid changes in regulations and consumer behaviors has required restaurants to pivot quickly and efficiently. Many of them are getting creative with the tools they already have in place, such as Yelp Waitlist.

3 real-life examples of Yelp Waitlist for takeout

Family-owned J&M Diner in Framingham, Mass. is using Waitlist to keep track of and prioritize to-go orders, a service that they had never offered before. Juliana—the oldest daughter, representing the J in the restaurant’s name— says:

“Our diner went from not offering takeout at all to only offering takeout. This was a big change for us. One of the biggest obstacles was handling the volume of phone calls with only one phone line. So we thought it’d be a great idea to use our Yelp Waitlist system to help organize our to-go orders… It’s been working out really well for us, helps keep everything organized, helps our customers—they don’t have to wait outside wondering if their food is ready or not. They can just wait to get the text.”

Texas Roadhouse in Fayetteville, N.C. is open for pickup and has temporarily repurposed its parking lot to function like a drive-thru. The restaurant modified its floor map to mimic the parking lot, and they’re using Waitlist to manage the drive-thru queue in a safe, organized, and efficient way. Customers can either call ahead or drive up, and they are then allocated a parking spot while they wait for their order. From there, they use Waitlist to work through the queue.

The Boiling Crab is using Waitlist for call-in and walk-in orders in Dallas and across all of their 20-plus locations. They’ve customized the automated text messages sent by the app to include takeout-specific instructions for what their customers should expect at each step. When taking the order by phone, the staff also reiterates those directions and reminds guests to maintain safe social distancing once they arrive onsite.

How Yelp Waitlist works 

To help show how the Waitlist platform can be modified from dine-in to takeout service, let’s start with a simple breakdown of how the app works for each scenario.

For traditional dine-in

Guests visit your Yelp Business Page and add their name, party size, and contact info to Waitlist to be added to the seating queue. Once a table is ready, you “notify” guests within Waitlist, which sends a text message to let them know that their table is ready. After the guest returns and is seated at their table, you mark the party as “seated” to remove them from the list.

For takeout

Same as with dine-in, guests add themselves to Waitlist to get in a virtual line. This can be done on your business page on the Yelp app or website. Once you are ready to take the guests’ order, you call the phone number noted in Waitlist. After you take down the order, you can give them an estimate as to when their order will be ready. Once the order is ready for pickup, “notify” the guests within Waitlist, which sends a text message to let them know. When they arrive at the restaurant and pick up their food, mark the guests as “seated” to signify that they’ve been served and the order is complete. You can then proceed to the next customer in the queue.

The text messages sent to your guests can also be customized to fit your takeout business operations—for example, once guests arrive, they may need to approach a certain entrance or wait somewhere specific onsite until their name is called.

If diners call the restaurant directly to place an order, add them to the Waitlist as a call-in order. Then follow the same steps as listed above.


To learn more about setting up Yelp Waitlist or for support on modifying your existing Yelp Waitlist to accommodate takeout, contact our team by calling 877-571-YELP.

Eligible businesses may qualify to receive Yelp Waitlist free of charge for a period of time; see our relief announcement for more information.

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The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.