I guess it makes sense that Austin-based Tabbedout would choose Capitol Hill’s Poquitos as basecamp for their Seattle launch — Capitol Hill smushed into a taco (metaphorically) is pretty much Austin, right?
The Tabbedout mobile phone app (in iPhone and Android flavors) lets you walk into a bar or restaurant, open a tab without reaching for your credit card, eat and drink, and pay — all on your phone. Well, not the eating and drinking part, unless you are messy.
If you have ever waited 20 minutes to pay because your waiter got slammed just as you called for the check, or got stuck in a massive line at the end of a show because everyone is paying at once (or trying to), or have blithely walked out of a bar with your credit card tab open, you can see the benefit.
As it turns out, that’s the benefit for the bar or restaurant as well: running credit cards and receipts back and forth to customers during the busiest times of the night doesn’t generate sales. Automating the payment process lets servers concentrate on serving food and drinks.
Right now, Tabbedout is in Seattle, Austin, and Portland, with Houston and Dallas soon to come. The company, established in 2009, has some 400 merchants signed on, and their software integrates with existing point-of-sale systems. (In Seattle, that’s largely DinerWare.) For a one-time installation fee, Tabbedout will install their software on each POS terminal, and then the fun begins.
Tabbedout merchants on Capitol Hill (and nearby)
- Auto Battery
- Central Cinema
- Li’l Woody’s
Because, unlike other mobile payment options, Tabbedout doesn’t use NFC, there’s no special hardware or swiping. That means it’s possible for you to open a tab at a participating bar without even being there–if you want to chip in for someone’s birthday party remotely, for instance.
Here’s how it works. Download the app, and create a profile with credit card(s) data. When you open a tab, you receive a short code on your phone that you show the server, who uses it to identify you on their sales system. While the tab is open, you’re connected live, and can see your order itemized as you go along. When you close out, you also get an itemized receipt by email. The merchant is allowed to set a minimum tip (which you can adjust up), so no one gets stiffed, and your friends with Tabbedout can also join your tab…if you are blessed with friends who are willing to split the bill.
If you forget to close out, Tabbedout allows the merchant to close you out at the end of the night anyway. The software queries your credit card as you open the tab, so you won’t get stuck with an expired card and a bill. It’s likely you will have enabled a security code for your phone overall, but just in case, you can also set a Tabbedout-specific security code to make sure it’s really you doing the tabbing.
Again, Tabbedout takes care of the payment part. You do all the ordering the usual way. Presently you can search for locations by state and city name, and zip code; as the list of participating venues increases, Tabbedout is going to have to let you drill down a little more–certainly by a search on names. When you open a tab, it also lets you check in with social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare, presumably so all your cheapskate acquaintances can hustle over and get in on your largesse.
If you have used Uber before — hey, they’re on Capitol Hill, too — this will all seem familiar to you, especially that thrill of slipping out without dealing with any payment rigmarole. You enjoy yourself, and then you depart.
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