The Green Sheet Online Edition
February 08, 2010 • Issue 10:02:01
Going out made easy
A few years back, ATX Innovation Inc. founder and Chief Executive Officer Rick Orr was having a relaxed lunch with some of his friends at a local restaurant.
Orr said it was a sunny summer day, the meal was fantastic and everything generally seemed swell. When the group received its check, Orr brought out his credit card and left it on the table for pick-up, fully expecting to leave the restaurant a satisfied patron. But at this point things took an unfavorable turn. "The server was just beyond reach when I wanted to give her my credit card, and we waited until about 55 minutes later when she actually came back and ran the check," Orr said.
Yet the protracted wait proved serendipitous: it gave rise to a new idea. Instead of waiting for end-of-the-meal service, might there be a proactive way to speed it along?
"As technologists, we were thinking, 'There has to be a better way than this,'" Orr said.
The product that came about
The result is a product called TabbedOut, which allows patrons at restaurants and bars to pay their tabs using a mobile device. For example, rather than jostling for space and the bartender's attention at a crowded pub late at night, a patron can close out the night's tab from his or her table - or even on the cab ride home.
"This consumer pain point is what we're most explicitly addressing," Orr said. "I always think of a couple scenarios: where you have kids screaming at the end of the meal, and 10 or 15 minutes is like gold; and then the bar scenario, when last call happens and you have to battle five or seven people to get up to the bar just to get your card back."
Consumers using TabbedOut are provided a code every time they open the program, which is then communicated to a bartender or server.
Ordering is still done conventionally, but each order, and the aggregated tab amount, appears on the customer's phone in real time, keeping TabbedOut users apprised of their bill throughout the evening.
"The user experience is you have a code displayed on your phone and you walk up to your server and say, 'Hey, can I please open a tab TabbedOut? I'd like two drinks,'" Orr said. "As they're adding the drinks on the point of sale, there's a button that has an exact same code they just saw on the person's phone. ... So forevermore, when I open my phone I can see all the things that are immediately on there throughout the night.
"Part of the historic motivation for that feature was friends put drinks on my tab, and I wouldn't know until the next day. I'd say, 'Wait, it couldn't have been that expensive ... With TabbedOut you can review it anytime and go up and say, 'Hey, man, I think you put this guy's drinks on my tab,' or 'I only got one of these, not three.' It gives you a power to see what the bartender is seeing."
Software as a server
Closing out one's tab (or paying the restaurant bill) can be done completely on the program. The user simply selects a payment card on his or her mobile device, notes the tip amount and clicks the "pay" button to tab out.
TabbedOut contains a feature that allows venues to set a minimum tip amount, so customers can't stiff their help anonymously. It also uses a Global Positioning System so users can discover what venues use TabbedOut in their locality.
The program is only available on the Apple Inc. iPhone, but Orr said development is underway for TabbedOut applications on Google's Android operating system and on Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices.
ATX Innovation Inc.
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