Matchmakers

Of Pivots And Pay At The Table

We’ve all been there — just finishing up a meal at a restaurant and wanting to leave but forced to wait until you can get the waiter’s attention to actually bring over the check.

And if you’re eating with a group and everyone wants to pay separately, then you can probably expect it to take even longer to actually get out of the door.

It’s a pain point, for both consumers and restaurants, that’s all too familiar.

In this week’s episode of The Matchmaker Is In series, hosts Karen Webster and David Evans, economist and author of “Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms,” were joined by Tom Weaver, CEO of Flypay, to discuss how its recent business model pivot helped its restaurant payments platform to ignite.

 

Killing The Wait

According to Flypay’s research, customers were spending an average of 10.5 minutes trying to pay and leave.

Flypay categorized this as a double pain point — a problem not only for the customer but for the restaurant as well, particularly in the casual dining or quick-service market, where the priority is on the speed of table turnaround.

Weaver said that Flypay’s initial answer to solving this friction was its pay-at-table solution via the Flypay mobile app. Consumers were asked to download the Flypay app via marketing materials at their table, which, Weaver said, they had about 40 minutes to an hour to do.

When a customer is ready to pay, they simply use the app to submit which restaurant location they are at and their table number. From there, the app pulls the bill from the point of sale, allows customers to split the check either equally or by item and even see real-time updates to the bill if others have already paid for their items.

Customers can leave a tip, rate the service, check out and leave.

“The whole idea was to make that a completely waiterless experience,” Weaver explained, noting that the solution enables a customer to do everything they need to do to check out without having to flag down someone in less than a minute.

But once Flypay’s pay-at-table solution hit the market, Weaver said he quickly saw that restaurants were still in need of other features that would help them improve the customer experience. Flypay began to integrate complementary services into its app, including order ahead.

And that was its business for the first couple of years — signing up restaurants and signing up consumers so that Flypay would become the restaurant network payments method.

Until Weaver decided that the way to scale was to move beyond its multi-brand, multi-location aggregator for restaurant customers to a more scalable platform targeted to the restaurants themselves.

 

The Platform Pivot

Flypay’s new platform, Flyt, allows merchants to integrate and manage various technology-based services focused on hospitality.

Essentially, restaurants can use the platform to integrate the technology they want into their own merchant-branded app to customize the services surrounding their customer journey — whether that’s booking, delivery, loyalty, offers, etc.

Though merchant-branded apps may be able to drive 20–30 percent of transactions moving from physical to digital, Weaver said the next 30 percent is going to be driven by aggregator apps and the other bigger technology platforms in the space, such as Facebook Messenger and Amazon Echo.

Rather than concentrating on winning the consumer through the Flypay app alone, Weaver said the goal is to instead work with other hospitality-focused aggregators or apps to matchmake them with its network of merchants.

“Our focus, therefore, becomes scaling out the number of merchants we have signed up to the platform and enabling different types of experiences on top of that platform,” he added.

This give the restaurants the opportunity to have their own branded app, powered by Flypay, and the freedom to make a variety of capabilities and functionalities available to their customers. They also have the incentive to then get customers to sign up for their app, which helps to solve the customer onboarding problem many matchmakers face.

“By building out more of a platform approach to connect the merchants to the consumers, we were able to create some incentives to join our platform, even if you weren’t using our core services,” Weaver explained.

 

Collaboration In The Face Of Friction

Weaver, Webster and Evans all agreed — if there’s one thing that the payments space can deliver, it’s the many and varied frictions and pain points that need solving.

And plenty of competition who also see themselves as the perfect problem solvers.

But Flypay isn’t focused on going head to head with the big multibillion-dollar players. Instead, Weaver said the aim is to compete in terms of products, the relationships built and the way in which it chooses to solve the problem.

“We’re tackling the problem in a very multifaceted way, but we’re trying to piggyback off other people that already have scale frankly. We’re trying to solve their problems and solve the restaurants’ problems at the same time,” Weaver noted.

The overarching goal, he added, is to get consumers using these services and to get restaurants accepting services at scale.

“Our view is that there’s a number of different ways in which restaurants and consumers may choose to do that, and we want to be involved in all of them.”

Though it’s easy to look at the payments space and want to solve all of the friction points still out there, Weaver said that there’s a certain point when you realize you just can’t (and don’t have the resources) to do it all.

“And even if we did, we shouldn’t do everything. What we should do is recognize that other people built some wonderful parts of that jigsaw puzzle, and if we can connect all the bits together well enough, then everybody will benefit.”

 

Matchmaker Inspiration

When asked which matchmaker is doing things right and setting the example for how platforms should operate, Weaver said his inspiration has always been Amazon.

“Partly because they were able to change the way in which people chose products in retail in a way that we still don’t see today when you walk into a great restaurant,” he explained.

What Amazon has been able to achieve with personalization and data discovery to unpin purchasing habits and create a better customer experience is something Weaver said is still missing in the brick-and-mortar world.

But with the help of mobile devices, he noted that brick-and-mortar companies are finally starting to catch up and deliver on the kind of experiences that customers have grown accustomed to online over the last decade.

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