Dine and Dash: the killer app for mobile payments?

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Mobile payments have been slow to take off in most of the developed world. In places like East Africa, they are booming, because most people are un-banked or under-banked: they use mobile because they have no alternative. But where 99% of the population already has debit and credit cards, mobile payments are lagging expectations. The rule seems to be that mobile will only take off when it solves a specific payments problem that traditional payment cards don’t.

Up until now, transit has seemed to be the leading killer app for mobile payments. But, as this article points out, restaurant bills can also be a real PITA — both for diners and for wait staff.

“Instead of going through the rigamarole [sic] of busting out their credit cards or splitting the check at the end, diners merely check in with the app when they arrive and alert their server that they’re paying with Cover. When a meal is over, payment will be made through the app, and will automatically be split based on the number of diners that were in the party. No more calculating the tip, figuring out each person’s contribution, or waiting for change or credit cards to be swiped and returned. You just get up and go.”

Not only is this a big win for diners, it is also fairly cheap and easy for restaurants to set up. That’s important: restos tend to have skinny profit margins, no time for training, and high employee turnover.

“But, just as importantly, there’s very little setup involved in adding Cover to their workflow. While most restaurants are used to having significant upfront costs associated with hardware and training staff whenever new technology is put in place, adding Cover payments is basically free and can be set up in minutes.”

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To be clear, I am not endorsing Cover specifically. But the category of mobile payment apps for dining is one that may do better than some other payment verticals.

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