Reservations app OpenTable already lets users book a table at 31,000 restaurants nationwide without having to go through the trouble of talking to another person. Now, the company is taking this service to its next logical level by letting diners pay for their food without any tedious human interaction.
As of Monday, the app will allow customers in New York City who made OpenTable reservations at one of 45 participating eateries to pay for the meal with their smartphone. The service will become available in 20 more cities by the end of the year. That means the age of waiting for a waiter to bring you a check may be coming to an end.
Sarcasm aside, this is a logical next step for OpenTable, and restaurants in general. The fact that we're still stuck using pen and paper to pay for a meal in 2014 is a little strange considering that most people are carrying around internet-connected devices wherever they go.
There's currently no fee for the service. According to Bloomberg, OpenTable hopes to make money by attracting more people to download its app. The company gets paid by participating restaurants for every reservation it schedules. But the Wall Street Journal ominously reports that while OpenTable CEO Matt Roberts isn't currently making a profit from mobile payments, "he hopes to eventually." So enjoy the free service while it lasts.
OpenTable isn't exactly the first company to come up with the idea of dinner-centric mobile payments. In addition to Seamless and GrubHub, two companies that let users order take-out and delivery meals over the internet, there's a whole industry emerging around letting diners pick up the tab on their phone. The Journal notes that startups like Cover, Dash, and TabbedOut, in addition to giants like PayPal, have all created similar apps.
That might make the market seem saturated, but in reality most restaurants don't work with any of these products, meaning the market is wide open for anyone who gets it right. OpenTable probably has the best chance, given the size of its pre-existing network, although Paypal is aggressively growing its network internationally.
No matter who wins, the question remains: Which minor inconvenience will technology solve next? Maybe an app that lets you order pizza with a single button? Oh wait, that already exists...