Dining out? Let your phone pick up the check

Caitlin McGarry

You dont have to say, Im here for my reservation, and Im going pay with a mobile payment, OpenTable spokeswoman Tiffany Cox told TechHive. Behind the scenes, all this integration is happening.

With other payment apps, you have to make sure to tell your server youre paying with an app. OpenTable automatically flags your table so restaurant staffers know you might pay with the app. When youve paid, the table is flagged againso no one chases after you with the check when you leave.

We dont want anyone to do anything different than theyre already doing, Cox said.

OpenTables payment program has one limitation, though: You have to book a reservation at the restaurant on OpenTable in order to pay with the app when you wrap up your meal, which means you cant experience the magic as a walk-in.

Now we wait
People are really excited about mobile payments. Our pocket computers are finally making our lives exponentially easier. According to a 2013 Forrester Research report, more than 60 percent of consumers want to pay for meals by phone. But the idea of going out to eat and not plunking down cash or cards is still pretty novel. Dash and Cover have yet to take on markets outside New York City. OpenTable stressed the test nature of its program.

But Forrester analyst Denée Carrington said OpenTable already has an advantageit doesnt have to convince restaurants to adopt a new app, like other payment services do.

Part of the challenge [for these apps] is gaining scalescale with both merchants and consumers, Carrington said. On the merchant side, its hard building a business going door-to-door. OpenTable is best positioned because they have so many merchant relationships already.

Scale with users will happen as more people start finding out that they can settle a check with their phone, and get comfortable with the idea of walking out of a restaurant without paying the traditional way. Adoption also speeds up when big names like Starbucks get involvedthe company in March updated its app to let you add a tip for your baristas straight from your phone. Starbucks has been getting its customers used to the idea of paying by phone. That could translate to dining experiences that are a little fancier than coffee and a snack.

Mobile payments in the U.S. are going to be an evolution, Carrington said. Its the type of thing where consumers will begin to encounter more merchants that are encouraging, accepting, and promoting mobile payments. Theyll test it out and decide whether it works for them and in what circumstance. It might work for you at Starbucks, but it might not work as well for you at a restaurant.

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