Ever forgotten to close your bar tab?
It can be a hassle (you’re temporarily minus a debit/credit card), as well as embarrassing (I was distracted, not drunk).
I know, as I did it recently while attending a post-work gathering. I walked out with several co-workers and didn’t realize my mistake until I was home. The next day at an early morning photo shoot at another bar, I witnessed a steady stream of bleary-eyed patrons returning to retrieve credit cards and formally close their tabs.
So when the folks at Tabbed Out sent me a note touting the arrival their mobile payment system in the Bayou City, I was intrigued.
The process is easy: download the free Tabbed Out app to your iPhone or Android and set up a payment source, then “open a tab” on your phone, show the generated five-digit code to your server or bartender and then order as usual. As you order more drinks or food, you can see your tab updated in real time, allowing you to keep up with how much you are spending. When it’s time to pay, tap “pay tab,” add/confirm the tip and finish the transaction. The app emails your receipt.
Austin-based Tabbed Out was founded in 2009 by Rick Orr after he found himself waiting nearly an hour to pay his bill at a busy restaurant.
Tabbed Out began adding Houston businesses in April and is available at about two dozen so far, including the Maple Leaf Pub, Dam Ice House, Roost, Kung Fu Saloon and Wings N Things stores. The app uses GPS to show you the nearby businesses that use its system. There’s still not critical mass but the potential is there.
I tested the app at several places with mixed results. When it worked, I loved it. Within moments of the server keying my order into the restaurant’s computer system, my tab was updated on my phone. I never had to pull out my credit/debit card. And I paid my tab as I walked out the door.
At my next stop, Tabbed Out signaled that its system and the bar’s weren’t connected at that time. And at another, I opened a tab via Tabbed Out but the lone bartender wasn’t aware of the service and had little interest in checking it out.
That’s the biggest challenge for the company behind Tabbed Out as it grows its market.
“The (restaurant/bars) industry has a high turnover rate,” said Arturo Coto, Tabbed Out’s vice president of marketing. “Our biggest challenge is training and making sure staff is knowledgeable.”
Coto said once servers learn about Tabbed Out, they like it — and for many reasons. Patrons using Tabbed Out require less visits to a table on a busy night and Tabbed Out users often leave bigger tips, thanks to the default that automatically adds a tip (predetermined by the restaurant/bar).
“(Consumers) can override the tip, but we make it hard to do that,” Coto said, adding that the automatic tip is a selling point for restaurant and bar owners.