By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Charlie Jordan is only a junior at Tennessee Technological University (TTU), but he already has a start-up company and five investors in his new endeavor.
The Hendersonville native enrolled at TTU to pursue a degree in exercise science and physical therapy. He also was running track, but Jordan has given-up that sideline for now. After all, there is only so much a student entrepreneur can do.
“I was always throwing-out random ideas for start-ups,” he told us. One idea during Jordan’s sophomore year was a carbonated sports drink, an opportunity he abandoned after Mountain Dew launched its Kickstart brand.
“I decided that I was going to pursue the next idea that I came-up with,” Jordan said. It did not take long to find the concept.
“I was working Spring Semester at Olive Garden and noticed the long waits,” he explained. In addition to the waiting time that characterizes high volume times at restaurants, Jordan also observed that many people were not very observant of the paging devices that buzzed patrons when their tables were ready.
“I decided to combine the pager with a cellphone to better alert customers,” he said.
The result is a product named Wait Saver. Jordan’s product serves both client restaurants and their actual or prospective customers.
Each restaurant that subscribes to Wait Saver receives an iPad with several distinctive features in addition to the notification system for those waiting for a table, either because they have a reservation or they are on the waiting list.
There is also a complete layout of the restaurant with real-time information about each table. There is a dynamic feature that automatically assigns a server as a table turns over. Restaurants also receive data every day of their table turnover rates, guest flow, average wait times, and customer feedback.
Customers who want to use Wait Saver simply download the app. Once loaded on their mobile device, the user can access information about wait times at any subscribing restaurant in their city, make reservations, or sign-up for call ahead seating…
“Wait Saver improves table turnover for the restaurant and individual wait times for its customers,” Jordan says. That translates into more profitable enterprises and happier patrons who are more likely to be repeat customers.
The product was launched in February, and Jordan says he is working with a Tennessee-based restaurant chain to install the system at each of its restaurants.
“I’m hoping to have the final deal executed soon,” he says, adding that he can provide a white label product for chains.
The pricing is straightforward – $650 initially per location plus a monthly fee.
“Jeff has been a crucial, integral part of my learning process,” Jordan says. “He is a fantastic mentor.”
When the student entrepreneur looked for funding, he ignored traditional sources – friends and family or angels.
“I targeted those who would benefit from the product and its growth,” he said. Eventually, however, he expects to tap the angel or venture capital markets.
“I want to be a powerhouse in the world of having to wait for things,” Jordan says in describing his vision for Wait Saver. “We are starting with restaurants, but I plan to scale into other sectors like doctors’ offices and service centers.”
More recently, Jordan has served as a mentor at a TTU Governor’s School this summer and is working with a state agency interested in utilizing his queuing technology.