We keep hearing about the coming mobile payments revolution. The sad reality is that, for the most part, it’s a pipe dream at the moment. The whole industry is busy waiting. Even when I talk to some of the most influential people in the market, they readily acknowledge that we’re all waiting for Apple.
It’s annoying, it really is.
Everyone’s sort-of doing their own thing, pretending to innovate, pretending to do ‘cool’ things, but really, aside from a few spluttering possibilities, mobile payments are very much limited to specific use cases. Masabi, for example, who’re busy doing brilliant mobile ticketing on trains. Or Square, the US credit-card-dongle-thingy currently doing great things all across America. Or any number of mobile applications that enable you to shop online in a jiffy (i.e. Amazon / Ocado).
Actually using your mobile to do anything useful in a restaurant is quite difficult.
(Kudos must go to Pizza Express for deploying their mobile payment gateway using PayPal and a mobile application.)
Other than Pizza Express, I haven’t heard of anything else though.
Until, that is, I walked into my local tapas restaurant and was blown away by the offering from Delos Solutions.
First, though, let me backtrack a little to give you some background.
I work in Richmond-Upon-Thames most days. I want to be reasonably efficient so I try to have lunch or dinner nearby and definitely in a restaurant so I am not messing around with plates, cooking and unnecessary activities. I was introduced by a colleague to the tapas restaurant on the corner of my office called Don Fernando’s. It’s a well known family-run restaurant, the staff are highly friendly and I’m consistently delighted with the food.
When I want to do things quickly, though, I would take cash with me. So I can get the bill, pay then exit swiftly back to work or back home. Having to go and get cash out of the ATM is annoying. It’s frustratingly inefficient.
The other option is credit card. That is even worse. I can’t stand the whole rigmarole involved in asking for the bill, waiting for it to be printed, placing the card by the bill, waiting for that to be acknowledged and so on. It’s a ridiculously convoluted approach. (You can read about my full feelings in this regard here: “Save me from the chip’n'pin nightmare“.)
Every restaurant suffers from this credit card ‘delay’ problem. And I’m pretty confident that you, dear reader, have on at least one occasion recently, subconsciously wondered why it takes so long to pay by credit card in restaurants.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I arrived into Don Fernando one evening to find that they’d suddenly deployed their own mobile application. The flyer on the table explained that the app wasn’t for any other purpose than to request and settle the bill.
I immediately downloaded the app — and, curiously, noticed that there was now WiFi available in the restaurant. Good thinking. They deployed WiFi at the same time to ensure everyone could use the app without signal issues (even though, for the most part, I find the signal in the restaurant to be pretty good).
I had a look at the app and noticed it was developed by a company called Delos Solutions. I made a mental note to look them up.
I waited until I’d finished my meal and then I checked my table number. In Don Fernando, each table has a little numbered plate above it which is rather helpful.
I fired up the app, typed in my table number and waited.
A moment or so later, this screen appeared:
That’s the bill summary page. I looked down the list, astonished. It was super-fast!
I scrolled down some more…
There was my total bill along with the various summaries. I scrolled some more and found the familiar PayPal button…
Then I noted the rather smart “partial pay” function — utter, utter genius if you’re aiming to split the bill with friends.
I tapped on the PayPal button and 10 seconds later I was done, fully paid. The lady over at the till nodded at me. One of the waiters brought me over a bill thus:
I particularly like the “by PayPal” option there on the bill. That shows you just how integrated the end-to-end systems are.
I was astonished and elated by the simplicity and the brutal functionality. The app does one thing very, very well.
Is this the mobile future that I’d been expecting? Well, not quite. I’m not sure about the logistics of giving every single restaurant in the UK it’s own app.
However that, I don’t think, is the issue.
The fundamental point is that so many of us have smartphones nowadays. So many of us are entirely comfortable with using them as payment devices. The trouble is, the wider market hasn’t bothered to address this yet.
So double kudos to Delos Solutions for stepping up, designing and implementing this solution.
I now only pay via PayPal when I’m at Don Fernando’s. I absolutely love the flexibility that comes with controlling your own restaurant payment experience.
You know that, “Shall we get the bill?” This is precisely what I want as the next step.
I think I’ve now done about 10 transactions via the Delos Don Fernando’s app in recent weeks and each time, it’s been an entirely smooth experience.
I had the opportunity to meet briefly with some of the Delos management team (who, coincidentally, were having dinner in the restaurant at the same time as I was) and goodness me, the plans they’ve got — the possibilities they were outlining — they’re absolutely staggering.
Just think about the applications of this kind of technology to related situations. Don Fernando’s is certainly a proof of concept, but from the discussions they’re already having, I don’t think it will be long before we start to see this technology in-place in similar areas.
If you’re hunting for a solution to mobilise your restaurant/hospitality chain, definitely pick up the phone to the team at Delos.
Meanwhile if you’re local, I strongly recommend popping into Don Fernando’s and checking out the system yourself. And if you need a bit of company, drop me a note and I’ll see if I can join you!