tab app

Get to know a Toronto startup: Tab

We'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.

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