Do you hate waiting in a restaurant for your check?
Well guess what. So does the restaurant.
This limbo period is dead time. Frustrating for the diner and costly for the venue.
Restauranteurs depend on the fast turnaround of customers, so that collection of 15 minute waits adds up so some serious lost income.
This is why so many pay at table apps have been launched.
Research released by Velocity said the restaurant industry could boost its collective turnover by 14.1 per cent if mobile payments were accepted across the industry.
It found that over 40 per cent of those surveyed stated that they would eat out more often with a mobile payment app.
Simply, pay at table apps can let diners order ahead, choose what what they want inside the app, split the bill and then pay instantly and leave.
And for restaurants, they don’t just increase customer visits. They can also feed back useful analytics about menu choices, length of stay, best performing tables and so on.
Sounds simple. But the big challenge is getting people to download the apps.
Still, there’s no shortage of companies trying.
Here are ten.
It shows that investors still buy in to the vision that made the US firm one of the first in to the pay at table apps concept.
TabbedOut is a free app that lets users view and pay bar and restaurant tabs with their phones. It therefore eliminates the need to flag down a waiter or queue at a till. It also splits the check.
The company says its app doesn’t require any additional hardware and integrates with 70 per cent of US POS systems. It’s available at more than 10,000 locations in the US.
Participating outlets don’t just get faster customer turnaround but also a dashboard through which to assess trading patterns and offer rewards.
TabbedOut says that, in the past 12 months, it saw ‘tab growth in its core markets jump 700 percent’.
New York based Cover has pursued a slowburn approach to growth, focusing on building a loyal audience in its native city before moving to SanFran, LA and Salt Lake City.
It claims the system takes minutes for a restaurant to integrate – and can boast of a pretty hi-brow cohort of early adopters including Blue Hill, Momofuku Ko, Marc Forgione, L’Artusi, Toro, and Annisa.
Overall, more than 250 restaurants use the pay at table app.
Its eponymous app, Cover, lets diners pay at the table and even pay and order ahead. Cover raised $5.5 million in 2014.
Zapper’s approach is based around a QR code that gets added to the paper bill. Customers who have downloaded the app scan the code to make the payment instantly. They can also leave a tip.
The customer (and the venue) then get notified of payment success and they are free to leave.
Zapper began life in 2011 and initially targeted utility companies (with the aim of adding QR codes to bills for quick payment).
But it switched focus to the restaurant trade and now claims to be available in the UK, Ireland, Australia, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Sweden and the US.
It also makes regular announcements about POS integation – the most recent being with Revel. Other partners include SalesVu and Pilot.
UK startup Droplet lets merchants accept app-to-app payments. Signed up users find the retailer in their Droplet app, type in the amount and send. Droplet geolocates customers so they can tap ‘pay here’ when they arrive.
The firm makes a big play of the fact that there are no fees to users or merchants. Instead, Droplet makes money by charging retailers a fee for extras like rewards.
Droplet started out in Birmingham, but has now spread to London and other UK cities. It says it is currently working with over 600 merchants and has more than 18,000 users.
A few weeks ago it signed up the mid-sized UK brewer Adnams, which will offer Droplet in 50 pubs.
Another New York based company, which says its pay at table app is available at 35 locations in the Big Apple plus a handful in Chicago and Washington D.C.
Users with the Dash app installed can check in to a venue and ask the server to connect their tab. They can then view a digital bill in real time, so they can keep track of their spending. They can also split the bill.
And of course they can pay and leave.
The company secured a $1.2 million round in 2014 to go with its launch seed round.
Mycheck is a little different from the other companies featured here in that it has a B2B focus.
The company launched a consumer pay at table app in 2011, but then pivoted to provide a platform for hospitality groups and big restaurant chains (such as Busaba and Prezzo in the UK and Blockheads and Aroma in the US) to offer their own pay at table apps and rewards programs.
These systems let customers to use their smartphone to view, split and securely pay their bill, but also collect and redeem special offers and loyalty benefits.
MyCheck’s technology platform is integrated with 27 POS systems and is available in the UK, US, Israel and Brazil. It says it powers apps that reach 50m people.
The company recently closed a $5 million Series B with support from Spanish bank Santander’s Innoventures Fund.
This UK firm made headlines a few days ago when it emerged that Time Out, the London listings paper, has taken part in a £7m series A.
FlyPay’s pay at table app is available in over 100 UK restaurants and bars including Wahaca, Cabana, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Jamie’s Italian.
For the moment, it’s unclear how Time Out will integrate Flypay though one can see that the magazine-as-was is strong in listings so there are obvious mutual benefits between the two.
It says it wants to turn FlyPay into a ‘hyper local mobile commerce platform’.
The FlyPay app itself enables consumers to order ahead, pay at table and order at table. They can pay using the card pre-registered to the service.
Restaurants, meanwhile, can integrate the app with existing POS systems to take payments, develop loyalty schemes and analyse buying patterns.
FlyPay has also begun powering third party branded pay at table apps.
Here’s a point of difference: Settle is Ukrainian.
That distinguishes it from the usual London/New York/SanFran contenders. It’s live in Kiev and Moscow and is rolling out across Eastern Europe. But don’t get too excited because Settle has still focused its efforts on San Francisco too.
Settle closed a $1.5 million funding round from Moscow-based venture fund Life in 2014 and has secured partnerships with Eastern European banks.
Its pay at table app does all the expected pay at table and bill splitting stuff. Meanwhile Settle provides merchants with tablets and an accompanying app to view customer and billing information.
The firm says it’s looking to move beyond dining and also target other retail sectors like fuel stations.
Edinburgh-based QikServe describes its pay at table app as a ‘Waiter in your Pocket’, which is pretty catchy.
In 2014, the firm won a lot of attention after it integrated its mobile ordering solution with PayPal to allow the UK hospitality sector to take orders and payment using the PayPal app.
More recently it announced a deal with HMSHost International, a provider of food services to travellers at over 100 airport locations worldwide. That followed a successful pilot at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
This UK firm is currently finishing off a crowd funding campaign which, at time of writing, had raised £1.4m.
Cake is a pay at table app for restaurants and bars in London that does what all the apps in this article do: enables pay at table, split the bill and better merchant analytics.
It’s very clean with a UI that just asks three things of diners: split bill, select items, pay for everything.
Cake is live in more than 20 trendy London restaurants and bars so far, including Comptoir Libanais and The Rum Kitchen.