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Get to know a Toronto startup: Tab

Posted by Anna Starasts / June 1, 2014

tab appWe've all been there: the uncomfortable scenarios that can arise when paying the bill at a restaurant. The mess of trying to split a bill between 15 people after a few too many margaritas. Discreetly paying for a friend who's had a rough week. The awkwardness of pulling out the velcro wallet you've had since high school when paying the bill in front of your date.

Mobile payment startup Tab has a brilliant solution. Currently used by a number of Toronto restaurants with several more slated to join, this iPhone app is a mobile wallet that aims to improve your dining experience.

Here's how it works: if you're dining in a restaurant partnered with Tab, let your server know that you're using the app. In the app, check into the restaurant and indicate who in your party you'll be paying for. When you're ready to settle up, a few swipes of your smartphone and Tab will pay your bill using the credit card number you set up in your profile.

Founded by Adam Epstein, Fahd Ananta and Mike Kimel, Tab launched in April but has been running a pilot program with select restaurants since March. I spoke with Adam about how their mobile payment solution is improving the dining experience for Torontonians.

What inspired the founding of Tab?

Every member of the Tab team is passionate about food and dining out. Whether it be from personal experience or countless interviews with prospective users and restaurants owners, it was quite glaring that the current process of managing payments in restaurants was a problem yearning for a better solution.

Everyone has recognized that these awful wireless terminals at the table need to go and and are an awful way to end a meal. With Tab, we actually get technology out of the way, so with two taps you can put your phone in your pocket and enjoy your company and meal.

The Tab experience isn't just about disrupting payments in restaurants, though. Since our smartphones know a great deal more about us than the cards or cash in our wallet, we are creating a personalization layer to the dining experience, and you'll see more of that as our product develops.

Which Toronto restaurants are currently customers?

We are currently operational in 16 restaurants: Blowfish, Hudson Kitchen, Happy Hooker, Thompson Diner, Valdez, Gusto 101, The Citizen, Weslodge, Patria, Brassaii, Byblos, The Chase, The Chase Fish and Oyster, Irish Embassy and Playa Cabana Hacienda. Our newest restaurant is Table 17, and we'll be adding at least four more restaurants in the next 10 days.

Mobile payments is a hot market right now. Who are you competing with?

It certainly is a hot market, and we believe very strongly in the paradigm of the smartphone as a wallet. There are many different companies focusing on mobile payments en masse like Square or PayPal, or focusing on mobile payments specific to their brand like Starbucks and recently Tim Hortons.

No one has focused specifically on the dining experience, however. Since we're focused on this one vertical, we believe that we can create a much more immersive product, experience and community. To date, that belief has been reaffirmed by both our users and participating restaurants.

How does your company make money?

Restaurants are charged a processing fee lower than the usual fees charged by wireless terminal providers. There are no fees charged to the guest of a restaurant paying with Tab.

What's coming up next for Tab?

More restaurants! Our initial group of restaurants were strategically focused on downtown Toronto and now we're working on expanding to more areas of the city. That'll be reflected in the next few restaurants that start accepting Tab, like Table 17. We've also been working hard to get our Android app ready, which will be released by the end of June.



Really? / June 1, 2014 at 10:08 am
Is this really a thing? This has to be one of the worst ideas I've ever seen. My condolences to their investors!
Agreed. replying to a comment from Really? / June 1, 2014 at 11:48 am
So many wallets from bigger players coming into this space. They will be a flash in the pan.
keven / June 1, 2014 at 12:01 pm
It seems like a lot of extra steps to simply pay a bill. I'm confused as to what problem this is exactly trying to solve, the first paragraph tries to explain it, but I can't relate on ANY of those points.

And personalization? So you mean gathering my personal dining habits, mining the data and potentially sharing mine and my friend's private information?

I have to agree with the comment above, this is a really bad idea.
Tiffany / June 1, 2014 at 02:02 pm
My only complaint about the app is the autograt percentage. Tipping should reflect quality of service, if I'm already tipping them a pre determined amount - where is the incentive to provide exceptional service? It defeats the purpose of a server if we're doing most the work on the app.
TooLate replying to a comment from Agreed. / June 1, 2014 at 07:57 pm
agreed! have they never heard of opentable? They can implement something like this and wipe tab out...they already have distribution...
Adam replying to a comment from Tiffany / June 1, 2014 at 08:54 pm
Hey Tiffany,

We totally agree ... you can change your tip at any time depending on the quality of service
dumbideas / June 1, 2014 at 11:17 pm
the idea is so laughable. do you know you can ask the waiter for separate checks. this isn't about the app but the seed money that was used to fund a lifestyle.
M / June 1, 2014 at 11:30 pm
I think this definitly has potential. The article was written kind of funny tho.
I love the idea of just pushing a few buttons on my phone and not having to pull out my wallet. That being said, I dont often frequent the restaurants listed. Once they had more affordable restaurants on there (not places that I pop in to maybe once a year) Im defintely interested.

Can multiple people at the same table use the app to divide up the bill? the write up is confusing
Serge / June 2, 2014 at 12:49 am
Wow, totally didn't understand what this app does from the write-up. Solving the problem of how to split the bill easily and fairly is good. Is that what this app does? Anyway...
Adam replying to a comment from M / June 2, 2014 at 08:33 am
Hey M,

I'm Adam from the interview -- email me: adam at tabpayments dot co --- with some restaurants you'd like to see us in and we'll try and make our list more accommodating.

To answer your final question -- yes, multiple people can use the app to divide the bill.


Ray / June 2, 2014 at 09:02 am
Ahhhh another great reason to have your phone out during dinner...
Peewee / June 2, 2014 at 09:14 am
Adam, hows huddlers doing?
Tim / June 2, 2014 at 09:23 am
Tell your server you want separate bills before you order if you're paying separately OR use the basic calculator function on your phone to divide the total bill amount by the number of people paying. PROBLEM SOLVED.

If you have an iPhone you can probably afford a new basic wallet if you're so embarrassed by your old one. PROBLEM SOLVED. Also if people are going to judge you by your wallet or your APPS, who are you hanging out with?
Bill / June 2, 2014 at 11:35 am
Will the restaurants be providing free wifi? Otherwise I am paying a little extra through my data plan to pay using this method.
Stephen replying to a comment from Bill / June 2, 2014 at 12:10 pm
What kind of data plan do you have that has less than 100Kb data per month? Seems like the smallest thing to nit pick at.
Jamie / June 2, 2014 at 12:40 pm
OK 4 people dining at a table.

One has iPhone
One has Android
One doesn't have a smart phone but has a wallet with cash in it
One forgot their wallet at home.

How do we pay for our meal?
Bill replying to a comment from Stephen / June 2, 2014 at 12:43 pm
I have a $35 a month plan. If you don't sweat the small stuff you end up in debt, every penny, every cent count.

How would you like it if your waiter added a $0.10 processing fee to your bill for walking your bill to the back of the restaurant? I'll choose the cheaper easier option, I'll pay with cash or interac, thanks.

With all of the data breaches lately be hesitant about how and where you share your bank information.
jools / June 2, 2014 at 07:46 pm
Actually I think this is a good idea. Especially on a date. There just is no suave way to pay the bill for a friend when the waitress brings the clunky portable debit/visa with pin machine to the table. Either the extra suave dater does it in the interim while the datee goes to pee, or there's a lull in the conversation while we wait for the connection, think about the bill, etc. ....
James Epstein replying to a comment from jools / June 2, 2014 at 09:45 pm
WOW, either jools is a fool or is full of sarcasm. Who in the world is worried about how suave they are when paying a bill? It isn't like entering your pin number is gonna destroy the mood or have your date totally turned off.

This app is Huddler's founder second attempt of cracking a lifestyle by not delivering a usable product.
Sean / June 3, 2014 at 06:44 am
Jools need everything possible on his/her mission to get laid. Still trying, hasn't happened yet need all the ammo possible if its ever gonna happen.
BobX9 / June 10, 2014 at 05:32 pm
Man always SO many haters each time there's a post about a start-up... they already have 20 restaurants on board (and pretty good ones at that) with more coming. Obviously restaurants are seeing value here so they're signing up for the service. If Tab ultimately fails so be it, why hate on them now when so far they've clearly got something going.

This is why they call Toronto the Screwface Capital.
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