Santa Clarita resident Paul Otrokov is obsessed with wait times.
While getting his master’s degree in operations research, studying queuing theory, he realized that though it may be a good academic theory, it’s much different when applied to the real world.
It was then that he began thinking of creating LineDrop, a virtual queuing service for restaurants.
Otrokov has been working on the tech startup for two years now, which has finally launched in the Santa Clarita Valley, with four local restaurants currently working as beta testers.
Using a tablet, LineDrop enables restaurants to put customers on a virtual waitlist, inputting a customer’s name, party size and phone number, then texting customers updates on their wait time and notifying them when their table’s ready.
“We’re priming the customers to be there, so when the table’s ready, they’re ready,” Otrokov said. “It’s good for the customers, but it’s also really good for business.”
The technology helps the customer be more relaxed, as their place in line is secure, while also allowing the line to move more efficiently and freeing restaurant workers up to do more productive tasks, Otrokov added, noting that it provides a much better experience.
LineDrop also recently launched an app, where customers can see wait times at participating restaurants and join the queue right then.
Of the beta testers is local diner Nealie’s Skillet, where raw data from the two months of use has shown a 26% improvement in waitlist drops.
“It’s really good and super easy to use,” Adam Taragano, host and waiter at Nealie’s, said, adding that it gives customers peace of mind. “It’s a lot easier for us just because visually, we can see who’s waiting, or how long it’s going to be, and it gives us an estimate so we don’t have to think about it.”
For other restaurants where seating customers isn’t their main concern, like Thai Life Fusion, another local beta tester of LineDrop, the app allows them to instead process takeout orders more efficiently.
By allowing customers to place takeout orders or join the queue from home, the app then calculates the driving distance and wait time, telling them exactly when to leave to get to the restaurant on time.
“It’s fantastic,” added Neal Scott, owner of Nealie’s Skillet. “The system is going to help us a lot … and improve productivity.”
The restaurant has added a message on its phones to inform customers of the app and the chance to join the queue virtually, which Scott said has vastly helped.
For Nealie’s, where Scott said a majority of customers aren’t local, but are traveling up and down Interstate 5 or visiting Magic Mountain and don’t want to go to the chain diners, the virtual queue is a game-changer, as it allows them to join the queue before arriving.
Each of LineDrop’s beta testers have also been helping to mold the product, providing tips on how to improve the app, what features they need, what works for them and what doesn’t — and they’ve listened.
When first implemented, Taragano said the program would load slow, but upon communicating that with LineDrop, the problem was quickly mitigated.
“I think that just goes to show that they’re working on it every day, trying to make it better,” Taragano added.
LineDrop is also continuing to work to implement new features, such as a web version of the app, along with other restaurant suggestions.
The tech startup is looking for more local SCV restaurants wanting to participate, as they look to aggregate a density of customers in one area to improve the app.
For more information or to participate in LineDrop, visit linedrop.app.