Yelp Announces New Takeout Solution for Restaurants, Upgraded Front-of-House Solutions, and Improved Consumer App Experience
As one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic, restaurants have faced constantly changing government guidelines and adapted to new ways to serve diners, all while prioritizing staff and diner safety. One constant since the beginning of the pandemic has been the shift to takeout, delivery and curbside pickup, for restaurants and consumers alike. Though this transition wasn’t something restaurants had planned on, we’ve seen customers adapt quickly – share of consumer restaurant searches for takeout on Yelp have increased by 3,200% since March 1, 2020, and even recently, as of February 1, 2021, have remained 2,265% above prior levels (YoY). Throughout the summer when dining outdoors became largely popular, searches for takeout still remained high with a 2,800% increase YoY.** We believe the consumer interest in takeout will be here to stay long after the pandemic eases.
To continue to better support our restaurant partners, today we’re introducing a number of new features that will help restaurants’ front-of-house operations. For the first time, we’re evolving our Waitlist product to focus on takeout operations. Prior to the pandemic, Yelp Waitlist was focused solely on managing dine-in service. Now, restaurant owners and hosts will be able to efficiently manage their takeout orders and communicate safely with consumers through SMS, sharing updates on their order status, and ensuring a seamless front-of-house and diner experience. Additionally, we’re releasing new analytics, Guest Profiles and an upgraded Point of Sale (POS) integration for Waitlist to allow for a more holistic and detailed view of restaurant performance and diners. These new updates will empower restaurants to operate more efficiently, while giving them the tools they need to reach their customers with the right messaging in the right moment.
For consumers, we’re continuing to elevate the best and most helpful information with an updated user experience, making it easier for diners to find the information that is most valuable to them – like the latest menu images, most relevant food photos and most popular dishes.
Building a New Takeout Solution to Help Restaurants Adapt
Since the pandemic started, we’ve seen some restaurants adapt their use of Waitlist to manage takeout and curbside pickup orders, however, the technology at that time wasn’t built to meet this growing need. The new Waitlist takeout feature will allow hosts to seamlessly manage both their dine-in and to-go parties via the Yelp Waitlist kiosk. They can easily enter and keep track of all takeout orders in the app – whether the orders were received via phone or website — and can input relevant information, such as type of car to accommodate for curbside pickup. Repeat diner information is stored for easy autofill of pertinent details, such as phone number and dietary preferences. From there, the host can text consumers when their order is ready, allowing them to maintain social distancing when picking up.
Nathan Hughes, Director of Operations for Mr. Stax Inc., a management company that operates several IHOP Franchise Restaurants, piloted the new Waitlist takeout feature and observed increased efficiency in his front-of-house. With 36% of Waitlist usage for takeout, between January 11th – February 11th, they received nearly 3,500 total to-go orders across the top 30 locations.
“Any off premise sales are certainly fundamental to our business at IHOP, whether it be a to-go order placed over the phone, in person at the restaurant, online or through our app,” said Hughes. “For us, the greatest benefit of the new Takeout feature is that we’re able to communicate directly with our guests – for instance, letting them know if their order isn’t quite ready when they arrive and then texting them once it becomes available. Additionally, it reminds our guests that for future visits they can get on the Waitlist in advance by simply using Yelp.”
Yelp Waitlist customers can now find the new takeout feature in their Waitlist app. For restaurants with nine or fewer locations, the takeout feature is available at no additional cost and for restaurants with 10 or more locations, pricing will vary.
Empowering Restaurants to Operate Efficiently and Market Effectively Through Diner Analytics, Guest Profiles and a Point of Sale Integration
As Yelp evolves its Waitlist platform to better serve business owners and consumers, we’ve doubled down on building hospitality features to support restaurants as they strive to provide the best diner experience.
Restaurant owners have let us know that they want to reach their customers in more effective ways and create more tailored marketing experiences. With that in mind, we’re introducing Guest Profiles and a new Point of Sale Integration.
- Guest Profiles: With this update, hosts can add important guest information so restaurant staff can provide a more personalized experience for their diners. Hosts can add things like seating preferences and dietary restrictions. The new feature will also allow staff to quickly autofill information for diners who have previously visited.
- Point of Sale (POS) Integration: This new integration will provide meaningful diner information to the business owner, as well as help hosts better manage table status. Now, the host will automatically be updated when a check is paid, with no input needed from the host or manager, creating a seamless experience while saving the host time. Additionally, detailed diner information from the POS will be combined with guest profile data, to give restaurants a detailed holistic digital picture of their customers enabling more effective marketing strategies. This will include things like, amount spent, who their server was and what items they ordered. The POS integration is currently available at an added charge to Waitlist customers.
Both Guest Profiles and the new POS integration support personalized and targeted marketing opportunities for restaurant owners to reach potential repeat diners.
We’re also upgrading Yelp for Business with enhanced analytics to give restaurants a way to view and monitor restaurant performance, including information on significant changes in key metrics. For the first time ever, multi-location, franchise and chain restaurants will see performance metrics at a brand level, in addition to detailed views for each location – outliers will be highlighted for easy visibility. For restaurants of any size, metrics shown over a specific date range include, number of diners seated; diners seated via Yelp; seating conversion rates (percentage of Waitlist parties who were eventually seated); and wait time accuracy. Restaurant owners can see trends-over-time and can view information on average wait times grouped by days of the week, average table turn times, and diners seated by source. Data is available for the past two years for existing Waitlist customers.
Through the new Analytics, Guest Profiles and the POS integration, we’re enabling restaurant owners to better understand their diners and reach them more effectively with relevant content and promotions. We’ll continue to announce more related features and updates throughout the year.
Elevating the Consumer Experience on Yelp
Connecting people with great local businesses is our mission.. It’s more important now than ever that consumers can find great restaurants near them that are catering to their current needs – whether it’s gluten-free pizza delivery, an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating, or fast Chinese food takeout. To address these evolving consumer needs we have updated the search and discovery experience for restaurants on Yelp. New user experience updates include:
- “On the Menu”: This new section for business pages on the web better surfaces a restaurant’s Popular Dishes, links directly to their menu, and includes time-stamped menu photos. As of January 2021, we have seen more than a 60% increase in consumer interaction with menus on Yelp since January 2020.* “On the Menu” better highlights the meals available for diners without having to step inside a restaurant or navigate around a Yelp page. Additionally, as restaurants have pivoted to new takeout and delivery menus, it can be hard to find the most up to date menu – the new time-stamped menu photos help eliminate this uncertainty.
- Dish & photo search upgrades: When a user searches for a particular dish in the Yelp app, we will better surface images of that dish under each business listing in the search results. For example, if a consumer searches for cheesecake, they will see even more images of cheesecake in their search results. This capability is available on iOS, and will be coming to Android and web later this year. Additionally, users can now easily search for photos on Yelp business pages from our Android and iOS mobile apps.
- Yelp iOS 14 home screen widget: As another way for iPhone users to customize their home screen, with the iOS 14 rollout we released a Yelp widget that surfaces restaurant recommendations to users. These recommendations will rotate throughout the day to provide users with restaurants that are highly-rated and offer delivery or takeout.
Yelp’s platform redesign, which has been rolling out in phases, will be complete and live across all platforms in the coming weeks — web, iOS and Android — featuring updated homescreens, search pages and business pages on mobile apps.
Restaurants have proven their resilience and ability to adapt while meeting evolving government regulations and consumer expectations. We’ve been inspired by the ambitious business owners embarking on new restaurants despite the challenging circumstances. In fact, as reported in our recent Annual 2020 Yelp Economic Average report, 18,207 new restaurants and food businesses opened nationwide in Q4 2020, down only 4% from Q4 2019. We’re focused on helping restaurants through the pandemic and anticipated recovery by releasing new features and tools for them to reach and engage with their diners and meet new consumer expectations. Stay tuned for more to come!
* The increase in consumer interaction with menus on Yelp was calculated using the relative difference in the number of menu connections between January 2020 and January 2021, normalized by the number of sessions in each month.”
** Jun-Sept 2019 vs Jun-Sep 2020