Flash Valet, which uses mobile technology to facilitate payments for valet service providers, is creating a companion mobile app for consumers.
The consumer app has not been released to the general public yet as Flash Valet seeks new relationships with parking locations that offer valet services. Flash Valet's current system requires the driver to send a text message to retrieve the car and visit a mobile website to pay. The app, which it plans to offer this year, will handle these functions directly.
"There's a challenge in educating an industry that for over 100 years … gave paper tickets and everything was manual," says Juan Rodriguez, Flash Valet's CEO. "It takes time to change someone from pen and paper to fully electronic … especially since these are not tech folks, but more traditionalists."
Flash Valet's text-message service, which works with credit cards and PayPal accounts, was tested in Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami and Austin, Texas.
When the company launched in mid-2011 "we wanted to have a VIP experience for people using valet services … because people didn't want to pay with cash," he says. "But then we saw that valet parking operators had a lot of challenges. They were doing 100 or more cars a day and it's all paper-based."
So Flash Valet built a type point of sale system, which enables operators to take care of revenue control, daily numbers and other reporting necessities. The Austin, Texas-based company works with 100 parking locations in the U.S., about 70% curbside valet.
"This saves time for both consumers and valet service providers," says Dave Kaminsky, senior analyst at Mercator Advisory Group. "The valet provider can more effectively serve all consumers in the restaurant or whatever business is providing the valet service."
Flash Valet is also working on several other parking initiatives, including an app that allows users to open parking garage gates and will automatically deduct money from a linked card monthly or on a per-use basis.
During the testing of the text-message service Flash Valet saw high adoption rates, says Rodriguez. The company has a 55% response rate on after-service surveys with most consumers happy, he adds.
The automobile industry has become a target for payments initiatives over the past few years, as vehicles are built with more advanced technology. And parking is an area making headway in advanced payment methods. Last year in San Francisco, PayByPhone Inc. equipped 30,000 parking meters with Near Field Communication chips to enable consumers to pay with their mobile phones.
"There are a lot of things that are inconvenient when it comes to paying for transportation services," Kaminksy says. Flash Valet "is an interesting expansion of the way mobile payments are playing out in the transportation industry."
Correction: Flash Valet works with 100 valet locations. An earlier version of this story provided an incorrect figure.