Old Street is the home of London's tech start-ups, so it seems an appropriate place to meet the CEO of Flypay, Tom Weaver, in a Fuller's pub, and quiz the mastermind behind one of the UK's most exciting hospitality start-ups.
It is heady times for Weaver. This summer Flypay announced it was working with Apple on mobile payment. Then, in July, Time Out invested £7m into the start-up, as part of its movement away from being a legacy print media brand and into a global multimedia 'discovery platform'.
As soon as I sit down with Weaver, he's into passionate app champion mode, riffing before I've even had the opportunity to press the record button on my iPhone. This is a man that you sense has done a lot of pitching and presentations, to a lot of high-powered people, in the last year.
It all started in March 2014, when Flypay launched with some private seed capital and a £1m investment from mobile payment specialists Entreé Capital. Since then it has built its empire around the casual dining sector - servicing pay-at-table mobile ordering and payment apps for clients such as Gourmet Burger and Wahaca.
But now it is ready to disrupt the pay-at-bar payment methods of the pub sector.
There are a number of things that make Flypay's bar tab experience different to other mobile ordering and payment apps. The most important element is it doesn't take away one of the crucial social parts of the pub experience: being served at the bar.
Weaver begins: "You’re keeping the human experience - innovation works best when you mirror existing experience and take away the pain points.
"We want to get more people paying at the bar, for queues to go quicker - if we then combine the idea that people on a tab spend more money - then it’s a successful product."
So how does it work?
We whip out our iPhone 6s and are flicking away.
"It's simple", Weaver states, "I select the pub, choose one of my cards on the app, and you set up a tab like you would normally. Then I have a tab number, which I give to the member of staff behind the bar, to pay for the drinks."
Due to integration with Zonal, the tab number will be on the ePoS, ready to be used by staff
"And at the end of the night, you simply walk out and the tab will be paid at closing time." No fuss, no cards, no complications.
This is another pain point that Weaver jumps on - liability.
"It is so much more simple from a staff perspective - if you have cards left behind the bar at the end of the night, what do you do with them?
"There is a commercial thing - there is extra liability, but even from a human aspect, the staff are thinking ‘I want to go home, how do I manage this account, do I cash up?' - it’s complicated for them.
"There are some very bad practices with cards behind the bar - if you write numbers from a card behind the bar, if that is then stolen, it’s unlimited liability."
From a user experience perspective, it is one of the most straightforward apps in the F&B marketplace.
There are no swishy menus on the app, no funky graphics and endless clicking of boxes. Weaver is keen to stress this point - it's about making the process easier for both the customer and the pub operator.
"There are no menus - what we found in the pub space is that ordering doesn’t work. If I have a digital order coming through and also people at the bar, how do I prioritise? There is no dispense point - there is no way an operator can change their operations for a digital order, and to be honest, why should they?
"There is also a duty of care issue around digital ordering - especially around large operators, and it is also very difficult to roll out.
"The biggest operators want pay at bar - it’s their biggest issue."
And what about the infamous tab issue - that it's one person's card that gets stung for the whole night?
Weaver has thought of this too, and anyone can enter the tab throughout the night and pay for rounds: "The whole idea is we can create a great social experience - so you can either join from the first round or leave early."
The app now also aims to expand beyond the friends and family experience and into the business world.
"The other things we are working on is the corporate side of things," he explains, "so if one person wants to pay for the whole tab, that can be done, so you can join a tab without having to pay for a round of drinks."
As shown, the system is so simple that staff need little training. But still, basic support will be needed, and Weaver has thought of this.
"We do have people in-house, but for large operators, we are looking at partnerships with some of the training providers in the pub trade."
Although targeting multiple operators, and Flypay will be taking part in the digital forum at the next MA300 event in Newcastle, Weaver aims for the app to work for all pubs, single-site to large estate.
"We are talking to a bunch of single site licensees - tenanted pubs are very interested." He says.
And with that, he's off into the sunset, or Vienna apparently, where he is making yet another speech to a series of high-flying tech individuals, who inevitably will see the powerful experience Flypay offers and take Weaver forward even further.
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