COVID-19: How we're navigating the storm 🌪

Let's Look back to March 23rd when the lockdown first began...

As a team on a mission to get you a table anytime, anywhere - the news of lockdown and the subsequent closure of all restaurants was terrible (albeit necessary) news. What would happen to our beloved restaurants? What would happen to their teams who we had built such strong bonds and friendships with? What about all of their livelihoods?

It was frightening for us too. The single metric that we use to assess the health of WalkUp, our ‘North Star ⭐️’, is Seated Guests (the amount of people that get a table through WalkUp).

With our North Star now at zero for the foreseeable future, we were going to have to reshuffle our priorities and assess the situation. A start-up is nothing if not adaptable, and being a team of 7, we took advantage of our size and got to work..

So what were we going to do?! 🤔

After Covid-19 went slap BANG, and after we got over the initial ‘what-the-f&*(£!$-is-happening’ moment, we re-assessed and realised that this could actually be an opportunity for us.

Every decision we make as a team is made stronger if we’ve all thought through the variety of routes we could go down and their effects on us as a company. When making pivotal company decisions we put our heads together, take into account our users’ feedback, restaurant feedback, the current climate and debate what builds we should prioritise to maximise the likelihood of success for WalkUp 🚀

The most important thing to do first was to freeze the contracts with our restaurants. It would never have been right to charge for the service while the restaurants were closed, so we had to get that done first.

News was starting to appear about queues beginning to build up in places they never had before (supermarkets for example), so there was the temptation to start catering to queues everywhere. The risk of that though, was that they were only temporary - and the effort it would take to alter WalkUp to be able to manage these queues would end up sinking us when normality started to resume.

What we thought was best, was to set up in a position to help restaurants re-open as safely as possible when that time came. We also knew that restaurants were likely going to be reopening with reduced capacity, so there was a greater likelihood of queues forming. We had to be in a position to help these restaurants. Adapt or die. It was time to shift our mantra of “Don’t Queue, WalkIn” to “Queue Responsibly.”

With all that in mind, we took our existing features of virtual queuing at the door, remote queuing and our newly finished Eat Now feature - and got to work. (Read more on Eat Now here!)

Self Sign Up📱

When we built WalkUp, we didn’t want to create a world where you were forced to download our app. You should be a user because you choose to be, because you think we’re useful and because it’s a cool app!

As a result of that ethos, we’ve always given diners the option of not using the app and going to the door of the restaurant to put their name on the list to then receive a text message with a weblink to their queue position.

The next step in the evolution given the COVID situation - was to allow a diner to join the queue without having to come into contact with a member of staff. We achieved this by creating a flow where you can scan a QR code and get your queue information as if you were added at the door by the staff. With our custom machine learning algorithm on top, we could even provide a wait time for the majority of the restaurants using it!

QR Code!

Track & Trace 📝

This build actually came along towards the end of lockdown. We started seeing reports that the government was going to require restaurants to take the details of diners who have entered their restaurant in the event of cases being reported and the public needing to be contacted.

We knew that this was something we could implement very quickly in combination with self sign up and our current product, so we made the necessary changes and lined all the legal requirements up to make this happen.

Localisation 📍

As more international restaurants and retailers were reaching out, we knew that localised language was going to become important. This was an almighty effort to pull off, but now the web-link and text messages are fully localised, meaning we can now display queue information in German, French, Italian and Spanish 🌏 We’re going to be adding more languages in the future too, so if you happen to be a wondrous multilingual WalkUp and want to help us out with translations, (firstly we love you!) and secondly, drop us a line at [email protected]

What now? 📬

Now that we’re starting to come out of lockdown and with more and more restaurants opening each week, our mission can once again return to seating as many guests as safely as possible! 🌟 We’re in constant contact with our restaurants, supporting them with reopening and getting them back on their feet.

With bookings causing more of a headache than ever with no shows (a no-show of 4 people can cost a restaurant over £240!), managing real-time diners is fast becoming a critical point of operations for restaurants all over the world, and we’re here to help!

If you’re a restaurant that is concerned with queues and managing your diners, drop us a message via [email protected] and we’ll get back to you 🤩