Dining out? Let your phone pick up the check

Caitlin McGarry

Enduring the interminable wait for a check at a bar or restaurant is something akin to torture when you have places to go, friends to meet, or a long trek home ahead of you. Dash is a new iOS app that lets you see and settle your tab straight from your smartphone, and while the app is only available at select New York lounges and eateries, Dash is part of a growing number of startups out to prove that mobile payments can make going out more fun.

I tested out Dash a few weeks ago at New York City seafood spot City Crab to see if settling a tab by phone is as easy as it sounds. If you have Bluetooth turned on, the app automatically checks you into a restaurant as you walk through the door. I didnt, so I checked in manually. Then you tell your server that youre paying with Dash. Thats pretty much the extent of the effort you have to put inI had already stored my payment information in the app, so when I opened it up again at the end of the meal, I simply had to see if my bill was correct and choose a tip percentage.

I regularly use apps that make my life easier by letting me pick and pay for things without having to pull out a credit card, run to an ATM or, in the case of Seamless, without even leaving my house. But sometimes, when Im not feeling like a bum, I like to go out. If I can enjoy a little human interaction while still paying for things by phone, like I can with Uber and Lyft when I need a ride, then Im all for it. But apps like Dash face two challenges: Convincing restaurants that mobile payments make their jobs easier and getting users on board.

dash the royal
Dash is convincing New York City restaurant owners that mobile payments help them turn over tables faster.

Dine and dash
Dash isnt the only app trying to use your phone to transform your dining experience. Cover and TabbedOut offer similar experiences, though each app has slightly different features and various partner restaurants on board.

Like Dash, Cover is currently only available in New York, but unlike Dash, Cover is also on Android. The app has a slew of trendy Manhattan restaurants on board, including hot spots like Charlie Bird and Estela. The Austin-based TabbedOut has partner restaurants across the country.

But the real giant is a company that no one associates with mobile paymentsyet. In February, online reservation manager OpenTable started testing an in-app payment program at 13 restaurants in San Francisco. OpenTable already works with 31,000 restaurants seating 14 million people a month, so its relationships with restaurant owners are well-established. And because OpenTable handles a restaurants reservation and table management systems, which are integrated with the point-of-sale system that tells your server what table youre sitting at and what youve ordered, theres no extra work for you or your server when it comes time to pay.

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