Startup DNA

Startup DNA: Rooam, Close Your Bar & Restaurant Tab Remotely

Most people aren’t thinking about mobile payment when they head out for a night on the town. But that’s changing.

“Every time I tried to close a check or tab at a bar or restaurant, I always wondered why this process could not be seamless and more efficient,” said Junaid Shams, cofounder and CEO of Rooam.

Shams said the impetus for his startup sparked when he was dining at a busy hotspot in Washington, D.C., and the restaurant lost his credit card: “I kept thinking that there must be a solution to fix the inadequacies of nightlife out there, or someone must be developing it.”

Rooam was built so that consumers could open, pay and close a tab from anywhere. The platform also provides a marketing tool, helping businesses to increase foot traffic, generate additional revenue and enhance customer engagement.

The company was founded in Oct. 2014. Shams brought the idea to his two friends — one was a creative director, the other a back-end engineer.

“I was expecting them to tell me the idea was no good, but in fact, they loved it, and we began to draw up the first designs of the app on napkins and whiteboards,” said Shams. “Within three months, we had our first pitch deck ready with designs.”

Six months later, the team arrived at an early version of the back-end platform, which showed how inputting an order on a POS system could push data to the app. From there, they then began iOS and Android app development in Sept. 2015.

“We have been on this journey for two years now, and to see the app launched in the iOS App Store and the feedback that we get from customers and bar and restaurant owners, it is truly humbling and gratifying,” said Shams. “But also, it just adds to the motivation to keep innovating and giving our customers what they want.”

The company said the data collection to date is still very much in the early stages, but it is something it’s investing in.

“Data collection is extremely important for us as we grow — for not only studies but also for sales, marketing and our expansion nationally,” said Shams. “Rooam is solving a legit issue that users face daily. We want to have quantitative data to show the positive impact of Rooam.”

Shams used an example of a bar partner on a slow Thursday night of about 50 customers. Through the traditional way of paying — reviewing the bill, putting down the credit card, swiping the card, tipping and signing — the average transaction took about five minutes and 32 seconds for a user. Shams challenged those numbers, saying: “With Rooam, it takes zero seconds.”

The biggest hurdle to date, said Shams, was getting a foot in the door with bars and restaurants.

“These owners and managers get pulled in so many directions each day,” said Shams. “Every new product, POS, payment processor or any other vendor is trying to get their attention.”

But somehow, the powers of persuasion are prevailing.

“Once we are able to get a meeting with the decision maker, we have a 100 percent success rate,” said Shams. “When they hear what Rooam is able to do, they realize how unique it is and how it solves a major pain point immediately.”

He said that, to overcome this hurdle, the Rooam team has partnered up with POS vendors, asking them to help with introductions. Shams said the partnerships have helped tremendously because, many times, POS vendors have a long relationship with the business owners.

Shams remembered the first tab ever opened. It was in April 2016, when he said he could see the tab open up on the Micros POS and the manager putting a Coke on the ticket. The drink appeared on the “Live Feed” screen of the app.

“For the first time ever, the entire flow worked in real life,” said Shams. “I still have this first receipt printed out and need to frame it soon.”

Many receipts later, there are even more plans for the future. This month, the Android version will be launched in the Google Play Store, and Shams said that the goal is to continue integrating with additional POS systems, such as Breadcrumb, Restaurant Manager, Digital Dining and others. The other big goal is to have 100 bars and restaurants using Rooam within six months, as well as 10,000 active users.

Rooam has plans to expand to Chicago, Philadelphia and San Diego in the near future.

“Ambitious goals, but we believe we have a very innovative product that can support our goals.”

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