This startup requires all employees to work in a restaurant first --  and it just landed $8 million from Yelp

Nowait Ware Sykes at Texas RoadhouseNowaitNowait CEO Ware Sykes.

There’s something really annoying about Pittsburgh: the majority of restaurants don’t take reservations.

This is incredibly irritating for residents who want to try out the new Japanese-Mexican fusion restaurant or plan ahead for Sunday brunch.

This is the problem startup Nowait aims to solve.

Nowait — which allows users to virtually “get in line” at a restaurant without stepping foot through the door ahead of time — is a darling of Pittsburgh’s startup scene. I lived in Pittsburgh for a year and a half, and the majority of restaurants and residents are huge Nowait fans.

Now, the company can add one more fan to its list: Yelp.

When Yelp released its quarterly earnings Tuesday, it announced it’s making an $8 million investment in Nowait and and integrating Nowait’s technology into the Yelp app. If Yelp users find a restaurant they like, they’re able to get in line using Nowait directly within the Yelp app (although the Nowait app will remain separate). The functionality will roll out in the next couple months.

Nowait CEO Ware Sykes told Business Insider he’s excited about the partnership for a few reasons, but mainly because it will allow the company to reach more users. Nowait is currently available in all 50 states and 4,000 restaurants, and is used by both national chains and small businesses. Sykes says the goal is to make Nowait a win-win experience for both restaurants and customers.

“People are willing to wait longer because they don’t have to wait at the restaurant,” Sykes said. “It allows restaurants to capture customers that wouldn’t have waited in a long line and it allows restaurants to market their product to app users.”

While Nowait considers itself a tech firm first and foremost, Sykes says Nowait is still in the hospitality business — which means that the company has one very unique requirement of its new employees: they all have to work as a host at a restaurant for at least two nights.

Sykes had that experience himself before he became CEO a few years ago, and he enjoyed the experience so much, he’s made the task a requirement for all new employees — including board members.

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