Offering what it bills as "the industry's leading waitlist system and seating tool," Pittsburgh-based Nowait is now fully owned by its one-time partner and investor, Yelp (NYSE: YELP). Yelp's connection with Nowait began in August 2016 with an $8 million investment. By October, Yelp had integrated Nowait into its industry-leading app, where it quickly became "a valuable addition to our overall restaurant offerings."

Yelp added that the $40 million all-cash deal for the remaining stake in privately held Nowait closed on Feb. 28. At the end of last quarter Yelp had approximately $480 million in cash, equivalents, and short-term securities on its balance sheet.

Nowait began in Pittsburgh, a city notorious for restaurants that don't take reservations, and was an instant hit locally. Today, it has arrangements with an estimated 4,000 casual dining restaurants in the U.S. and Canada. Participating restaurants are able to share seating availability with mobile users in real time. Prospective customers can then "get in line" for a table remotely via the app.

Yelp co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said of the deal, "With this acquisition, we'll make even bigger strides in the restaurant industry by allowing Yelp users to more quickly move from search and discovery to transacting at a local business."

Nowait's focus on consumers in search of casual dining is due to the segment's popularity. According to Statista, 54% of U.S. diners eat in a casual establishment at least once monthly, three times more than patronize fine-dining restaurants.


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