Gault & Millau | The world’s first COVID-19-compliant restaurant booking system

Original article on Gault&Millau, 20 May 2020

Governments around the world are now struggling with the issues of how to re-open their economies, get people working again, and minimising the social and psychological issues associated with the extreme shutdown measures that have been enforced. An important part of getting any economy going again and improving social considerations is the re-opening of restaurants, cafés and bars, especially now that many countries have succeeded in “flattening the curve” for new infections and deaths.

 Some states in the USA have permitted restaurants to open at 25% of their normal capacity; Australia and other countries have imposed a blanket limit of 10 diners per venue that is greater than 40 square metres; while restaurants offering sit-down dining remain closed in countries like England.

 Very clearly, there is no unified approach as to how to solve the problem of re-opening restaurants. A major reason there is no universal consensus as to how to reopen dine-in venues is related to the issues of how authorities can be comfortable that restaurants will comply with any COVID-19 restrictions that are applied. We have all seen examples of restrictions being lifted on beaches, in restaurants and other places, only to see people not complying with the required social distancing requirements. To resolve these compliance and other issues, technology and business entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban have called for the development of technology, which he calls “Restaurant 2.0”, to redefine how restaurants operate in a COVID-19 environment and in the future.

 With all this uncertainty concerning people’s behaviour and compliance with social distancing requirements, there is little consensus as to how to manage the re-opening of restaurants safely within this coronavirus-affected world.

Finally, there is a solution for managing and solving all the compliance and social distancing regulations that a restaurant could face online and in real time, 24/7 and before customers even arrive at a restaurant, café or bar, with the introduction of the world’s first COVID-19 compliant online restaurant booking system. WizButler can completely manage a restaurant’s tables and booking allocations to guarantee all government COVID-19 social distancing regulations are met.

 WizButler was developed by Peter Petroulas, in Sydney, Australia. Petroulas, previously an airline executive and a restaurateur, said that:

 “I started the process of trying to develop a new generation restaurant booking system over 5 years ago, as systems like OpenTable, Yelp and The Fork are simple systems that merely allocate bookings to existing and unused tables. The inadequacies of the existing booking systems meant that they were only capable of taking bookings on existing empty tables, they had no intelligence in helping a restaurant in the dynamic allocation of bookings or the optimisation and management of those tables.”

 The inefficiencies with the existing online booking systems were well understood from at least 2002, and professors, operational researchers and developers from MIT, Cornell University, Apple, Disney, Google and Amazon have attempted to solve different aspects of the inefficiencies of the existing online restaurant booking systems over the last 18 years. To date, however, no one has been able to solve the core inefficiency of the restaurant booking systems, which has been the ability to dynamically reallocate and reposition existing bookings to provide a more efficient or controlled allocation process. In fact, all the major booking systems still rely on an allocation process that is based on a first received, first allocated methodology for the allocation of bookings.

 Petroulas says that the dynamic reallocation and dynamic reconsideration of bookings is a concept that is foreign to booking and appointment scheduling systems. Further, Petroulas says that many people used airline booking processes for inspiration, without appreciating that managing a restaurant’s capacity and bookings are far more complicated than that of an airline. Petroulas says:

 “Managing restaurant bookings are far harder than managing airline bookings as a restaurant’s inventory of tables and chairs are movable and flexible, while airline seats are fixed and can not move. Also, within a restaurant, it is mandatory for all people within the same booking to be seated together on one table, and away from other tables, while this is not mandatory for bookings on an aircraft. Lastly, a restaurant service is more challenging as people are given full à la carte experiences while on aircraft, food is pre-made and choices are limited.”

 As a result of these complexities, no one has been able to develop and invent a complete table management system during the last 18 years that researchers have been looking for a solution.

 The WizButler system that Petroulas has been working on was tested during the period of August 2019 to March 2020 when restaurants were forced to shut down and now, after the addition of some further features, is completely tested, robust and ready for use. The WizButler system is unique as it can guarantee that for any online booking received, the dynamic algorithms will autonomously ensure:

  1. Tables and chairs will be dynamically allocated within a space within a restaurant to comply with any Government social distancing requirements
  2. Tables and chairs will be dynamically repositioned and reallocated when bookings are edited online
  3. Tables and chairs capacity can be dynamically managed online during a service so people do not need to go to a restaurant and ask to go on a wait-list in the hope of getting a table, thereby eliminating queues at restaurants
  4. The booking allocation process can allocate bookings with everyone from the same household differently from bookings from mixed households
  5. The booking allocation process can apply different rules for different sizes and capacities of venues, or different styles of venues, or different spaces within a venue due to their location being indoors or outdoors or based on the number of bathrooms or any other physical parameter to comply with any government regulations.

Petroulas says that the WizButler system is so flexible and can completely manage all aspects of a restaurant’s operation as he defined the problem that he was solving as a space management problem, and not a table allocation problem, as done previously.

Petroulas says that the benefits of the WizButler system are multi-faceted:

“First, WizButler guarantees to authorities that the venue will be complying with the mandated rules; secondly, the venue has peace of mind that they are not breaking any rules; and thirdly, customers are given the assurance that their ‘social space’ will not be infringed. This is a ‘three-way trifecta” for a usage cost of only 5 cents per diner.”

Petroulas says that he priced the WizButler usage charge at only 5 cents per booked diner as he wanted to make the WizButler technology available to every establishment, be it a small café, a bar or a high-end restaurant. The strategy for WizButler is to help economies re-open, protect people and allow society to get back to normal. All we need now is for Government’s to appreciate that WizButler can guarantee to meet the social distancing requirements they set, and we can all move forward in unison. Petroulas says it feels amazing that:

“After 5 years of seeking a solution to the management of the space within a restaurant, I am excited that WizButler is ready and can assist in fighting COVID-19 by helping restaurants and other sit-down venues re-open as part of the re-opening of economies, getting people back to work and returning society back to some form of normality.”

Petroulas, also said that WizButler is a complete COVID-19 solution as it also eliminates the use of physical menus for ordering and cash for payment as the WizButler system permits a person who has made a booking to invite guests and then the booking requestor can pre-order and pre-pay, as well as allowing invited guests to pre-order and pre-pay, then they can all continue to order in-service at the restaurant and pay using their own personal mobile phones.

WizButler, is cloud-based so it can be used anywhere in the world. Registrations for the WizButler system can be made at the WizButler website: