Israeli startup MyCheck is launching its mobile payment app in New York City at the end of April, expanding its model of allowing consumers to pay tabs with a smartphone instead of waiting for servers to bring the check.
MyCheck, similar to Austin, Texas-based Tabbedout, allows users to open, view and pay tabs with plastic cards or PayPal accounts at restaurants and bars. Since MyCheck's launch in Israel two years ago, more than 56,000 users have downloaded the app to pay with their mobile phones at more than 600 restaurants that integrated with the service.
"In Israel we kind of own the block, but here [in Manhattan] we're the new kid on the block," says Tal Nathanel, co-founder and CEO of the Americas for MyCheck.
Once consumers get into a restaurant the app uses location-based software to figure out which merchant the user is visiting. Consumers are given a four-digit number to reopen tabs and pay for items. The purchase is funded from a linked credit or debit card, but the app will not present the four-digit code if there are insufficient funds available from the linked debit-card account.
Users still speak to wait staff to order drinks and food, but when servers put the information into the point-of-sale terminal it also shows up within the MyCheck app so users can review what they ordered. When customers are ready to leave, they pay within the app instead of waiting for the server to bring a printed paper check.
"MyCheck is not just a mobile payment app, it's an app that actually solved a problem, a problem that we all know, the unbearable wait for the bill when you're ready to go," says Nathanel.
With the app, Nathanel says, merchants increase table turnover and tips, decrease chargebacks and create a more enjoyable and customizable experience for consumers. In Israel, tips went up by 32%, he says.
While most mobile payment apps, such as Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, have targeted quick-service food and drink purchases, new players are targeting sit-down restaurants in the same way.
Nathanel predicts MyCheck will see success in the U.S. because it is focused on the overall process of handling a check, rather than just the actual payment.
"Almost all of the other mobile payment solutions are either just e-wallets (essentially just replacing the credit card with the phone but still requiring a swipe or scan of a QR code) or are apps designed for over-the-counter or quick service environments where the total amount is calculated all at one time and at one point of sale," says Nathanel.
Tabbedout has already demonstrated that U.S. consumers are willing to use this kind of payment app. Tabbedout runs in more than 1,400 dining locations, including 500 TGI Friday's restaurants, across 49 states, says Alex Broeker, president of ATX Innovation, which provides the Tabbedout app.
The integration with TGI Fridays, which ATX announced a year ago, helped Tabbedout get some mainstream appeal. More than 700,000 consumers have downloaded the app and about 300,000 are ongoing and active users, he says.
ATX announced March 25 that it signed a partnership with Famous Five Dining, a franchisee of Famous Dave's Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que. Famous Five operates Famous Dave's restaurants in five cities in Tennessee and Georgia.
MyCheck has already partnered with dozens of New York merchants, 10 of which currently allow customers to use the beta app. Nathanel says MyCheck is trying to get hundreds more merchants signed on before launching at the end of April.
MyCheck has a "magic" number of merchants it tries to sign before launching to consumers. The company tries to capture 52% of total merchants in the launch area, which it does by partnering with point-of-sale software companies, such as Square and MICROS.
Tabbedout similarly targets a certain density of merchants per region before marketing to consumers, says Broeker. This practice eases consumer adoption by not forcing consumers to limit themselves to a handful of participating merchants.
ATX plans on launching in Canada and the UK next. MyCheck is looking to launch in the UK soon also.
One difference between the two companies is MyCheck handles payment processing, whereas with the Tabbedout system, merchants use their existing processor. In November, ATX Innovation added customer relationship management tools to provide merchants functions beyond the payment.
"We allow merchants and their staff to know who their customers are in real time while at their locations," Broeker says. And "a customer can give feedback and a merchant can respond instantaneously. No more bad Yelps."
Nathanel says the MyCheck system offers similar customer tracking features to merchants.