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upfront, startup weekend, app, iphone, waiting in line, restaurant

The following is a guest post by Nick Mancini of Upfront, an awesome app born from a Startup Weekend that makes waiting in line a much better experience.

If there is one thing that I can say for sure, waiting in line sucks! We’ve all been there; whether you’re waiting in line to give your 60 second pitch for startup weekend or waiting for a table at a restaurant. The feeling is all the same. As the duration of the wait grows longer, so does the anxiety of the person enduring the wait. But then there’s that Eureka moment, “I’m next!”

For some this is an exciting, adrenaline-pumping experience whether you’re next in line for a roller coaster or next in line to speak with the fine employees of the DMV. There is an inherent problem for a lot of businesses and how they bring in their customers and this is the problem that UpFront set out to solve during Syracuse Startup Weekend.

Nick Mancini teamed up with Vitaly Babiy to solve the restaurant buzzer problem. Often times when you go out on a Friday night, a restaurant will distribute buzzers or pagers to keep their customers in the restaurant. As a loyal patron, this leaves you feeling shackled to the 200 ft. radius of the host stand. Even if you’re wait is an hour or more, most people won’t even venture outside the waiting room out of fear that they’ll miss their table. So here’s our question, if these buzzers or pagers instill fear and anxiety in your patrons, why on earth would a restaurant use them when 95% of the U.S. population receives text messages?

In February of 2012, UpFront deployed its first version of the host application in Pastabilities, a popular downtown Syracuse restaurant. The host app is simple iPad interface that enables the host of a restaurant to enter in patrons via phone number and text them when their table is ready. As I stood behind the host at Pastabilties that first night, I watched these patrons receive the initial text, “Welcome to Pastabilities, your current wait time is 45 minutes.” As the night went on I constantly overheard customers exclaim, “Oh that’s so cool!” or “You guys should have started using this sooner.”

It was remarkable to see that by sending the diner a text message we have the ability to completely alter their perception of their wait time. A restaurants goal and responsibility is to create memorable dining experiences for their customers and continually exceed those expectations. Some of our other restaurants have said, “UpFront has quickly become an invaluable tool to our hosts and managers… We’ve saved over $400 in the past two months from not having to replace notification devices.

Each week they push out new features and changes in their product to improve our restaurants ability to better serve our customers and save us money.” Adam Eagan, managing partner from Empire Brewery. Moving forward we have pushed this app into 10+ restaurants throughout upstate New York and have seated over 15,000 diners to date. As we have continued to revise and perfect our host application, UpFront is currently working on a suite of mobile apps that will enable restaurant patrons to add themselves to the waitlist without even being there.

Now you can wait for your table as you’re driving to the restaurant, sitting in a movie, or just walking around downtown. At UpFront our goal is to improve the overall dining experience. By helping restaurants get customers through the door and providing their patrons with reliable wait time updates, we’re here to help you enjoy the wait. It’s been a hell of a ride during our brief six months operating in upstate New York.

Startup weekend is ultimately responsible for the birth and expedited growth of our startup and we could not be any more ecstatic after participating in the event back in November. As Startup Weekend alums we are proud to say that those 54 hours greatly impacted our lives and we are eager to participate in more events in the near future. Cheers!

Mitchell Cuevas
(@mcuevasm) I am the Sr. Marketing Director here at Techstars, am passionate about helping entrepreneurs, and am obsessed with finding, playing with, and implementing all the best new marketing (and other) technology I can get my hands on.