by Sharon Ng
Lunchtime at the CBD area often means figuring out how to grab your lunch quickly at a reasonable price. It is not unusual to see long lines at the more popular restaurants, with people waiting in line to chit-chat, check their phones for the newest posts on Facebook or Whatsapp messages, or simply give up and try to find one with a shorter line.
Most office workers do not have the luxury of a long lunch. It takes time to get seated, place orders, consume the food, and finally pay the bill within the hour. Some may opt for food delivery services, however, orders may only be delivered after waiting for 40 minutes or more, and wait times can be long since the delivery crew is similarly taxed during lunchtime.
Introducing the disruptive F&B app, Waitrr. The app reduces waiting time by allowing you to pre-order your food and pay for it. You can choose to dine-in or takeaway from a list of restaurants, and receive loyalty stamps from various restaurants on top of loyalty points offered by the app.
For the dine-in option, there is no need to wait for the menu to be brought to you, or wave your hands wildly to attract the attention of the service crew. You simply sift scroll through the menu on your phone, place your order, wait to be served, and then walk up once you are done. It works even better for large groups since there is no need to wait for everybody to decide on what to order, or for the group to request for separate bills at the counter or figure out how to split the bill later.
For the takeaway option, you can order from the menu, and schedule to pick it up at a convenient time. For restaurants, it is important to know about the orders in advance so that they have sufficient lead time to prepare the food properly in time for the pick-up.
However, Waitrr works best at hyper-locations, and may not be a good fit for everyone. Waittr CEO, Tim Wekezer explains that there are currently more than 200 F&B outlets listed on the Waitrr app, and they are concentrated in the CBD area, for example, Marina Bay Link Mall, One Raffles Place, and Marina One. These areas tend to have a lot of foot traffic and attract a large number of peak time crowds, where it is critical for restaurants to reduce the amount of time diners spend in the restaurants to maximise operational efficiency.
“For some restaurants, 60% of the orders are made through Waitrr. On average, diners can save about 15 to 18 minutes of their meal time in the restaurants. There are many restaurants where the manager is the only person who can handle credit cards. Not only he’s the bottleneck, he may be also the highest paid person in the restaurant repeating a routine process,” said Mr. Wekezer.
So how was Waitrr first conceived? Mr. Wekezer said that the idea came about as a “one-page powerpoint slide” in 2015 during his MBA course at INSEAD. The pitch won the top prize of €10,000 (about SGD 15,900) at the INSEAD Venture Competition, and he has never looked back since.
Building on his prior experience in his family F&B business, Mr. Wekezer understands the labour shortage that restaurants face. Although he possesses no technical expertise prior to Waitrr, he has learnt very quickly on the job. Mr. Wekezer explains, “I can now make good estimations on how long a feature takes and judge the level of technical difficulty involved […] I have learnt to deal with uncertainty since nothing will come as you have planned. I have to observe and listen to the signs, and then adapt changes to the app very quickly.”
Waitrr adopts a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, where there are no upfront fees, but restaurants pay anywhere from 5 to 10% of the transacted amount as platform fees depending on the volume of transaction that the restaurant or group processes. The company is currently focused on attracting more restaurant listings while working hard on customer acquisition at the same time.
In the next 12 months, Waitrr aims to achieve half a million SGD turnover, while partnering with UQPAY to offer more payment options. It is also exploring the use of AI and Big Data technologies on customer profiles to offer recommendations for app users, and also provide marketing tools to promote higher engagement with their customers.
There is a referral program where users can get three Singapore Dollars off as a promo code for each successful new sign-up.
Waitrr app review
It was Friday 1:30 pm at Marina Bay Link Mall when most of the lunchtime crowd has eased.
I met up with Tim Wekezer at Paul, and soon we were seated. I opened the app on my iPhone, selected the restaurant and decided on the All Day Set Menu. Listed as “Soup of the Day” and “Main of the Day”, I had to raise my hand to get the waiter’s attention to ask about the details. After making my selections, the app prompted me to proceed with payment. After choosing NETS payment and scanning the QR code sticker on the table, the app showed me an error and I could not proceed with the payment. Mr. Wekezer explained that there were currently some technical issues for NETS payment, and advised me to choose Apple Pay instead.
I proceeded to store my credit card in the app, scanned the QR code, and managed to complete payment. Paul offers a 10% discount for orders made through Waitrr, since it helps reduce the time required for service staff to attend to diners, especially during peak periods.
I continued to chat with Mr. Wekezer about the app and the restaurant business, and soon food was served. It was a seamless and pleasant experience overall.
While browsing for the list of restaurants on the list, I noticed that although there is a search function, it only searches for the name of the restaurant and not the type of food served. A filter is available, but users can only filter by “dine-in” or “takeaway”, instead of cuisine type or location. Unless users are familiar with the restaurants listed, they will be left scrolling through a long list to find what they want. According to Waitrr, an improvement of the filter by cuisine type is in the works, and currently restaurants are listed based on the distance away from the current user’s location, with the nearest restaurant listed at the top.
In addition, there was a lack of pictures of food on the menu . Since I was not too familiar with the menu offered by Paul, I was hoping to see some pictures of the dishes in the set menu to help make up my mind.
I would have also preferred to have an option not to store my credit card with the app, or have PayLah! or PayNow as other payment options.
The app is available on the App Store and the Google Play Store, rated 4 stars and 4.4 in the respective stores.
Just today, NETS officially launched its partnership with Waitrr after solving bugs and other small issues.