Chili's Grill & Bar today announced a partnership with NoWait, the wait list management system that will power the brand's new mobile waitlisting app.

The partnership will enable Chili's guests to search nearby locations and join the waitlist remotely, track their place in line, and show up when their table is scheduled to be ready. The debut of the app marks a distinct change for Chili's, which had previously used pen and paper to track its wait list and not taken reservations, according to Ware Sykes, CEO of NoWait.

“Chili’s is continuously looking to technology as a way to enhance the guest experience both inside and outside our restaurants,” says Wade Allen, vice president of digital innovation and customer engagement for Chili’s. “With the addition of NoWait to Chili’s mobile app, we are putting convenience and speed at our guests’ fingertips before they even walk through our doors.”

Chili's, which has nearly 1,300 units in the U.S. and pulled in $3.8 billion in U.S. sales in 2013, has already begun the nationwide rollout of NoWait to its stateside locations and will continue throughout the summer. 

The opportunity for Chili's came about through a Chili's franchisee who engaged with NoWait last year to help get more insights into his front of house and turn tables faster. After about six months of working with NoWait, the franchisee brought the idea to the restaurant brand's leaders.

"He was a champion of ours, and he happened to talk to the leadership team at Chili's about us and said they should take a look," Sykes says. "Chili's did a corporate pilot, and the rest is history."

The partnership also serves to raise the profile of NoWait, which launched its guest app nationally in January 2014 and just last month announced a national partnership with First Watch, the breakfast, brunch, and lunch brand with about 120 units nationwide. "Chili's is a phenomenal brand and a major player in the industry," Sykes says. "Working with somebody like them is a real plus for NoWait."

More broadly, Sykes says NoWait is focusing its efforts on the 250,000 casual-dining restaurants that don't take reservations, working with independent restaurant owners, restaurant groups, and chains of all sizes.

Sykes adds that Chili's has not yet made plans to stretch the NoWait partnership to its international locations, of which there are about 200.

By Sonya Chudgar

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Industry News, Technology, Chili's