Have you been at a bar wanting to order a drink but your waitress or waiter was not around? Odds are that it has happened to you this week. If you are at SXSWi here in Austin, it has happened to you more than once. Busy bars make it tough to order drinks – especially when you are seated at a table. My big pet peeve is sitting with an empty glass and nobody comes by to allow me to order another.
I was introduced to a new company that is making a big splash here at this year’s SXSWi. SpeedMenu is an Austin-based startup that is tackling this problem in an ingenious way. The moment you order your first drink, the wait staff hands you a receipt with a location, table number and 4 digit PIN. Pointing your cell phone to www.SpeedMenu.com and entering the location, table and PIN allows you to securely connect to your tab at the bar. You can also visit the bar’s website and get automatically directed to the bar’s custom-branded SpeedMenu web application. No need to download or install anything. It just uses your cell phone browser.
Want to order another beer? Simply click the reorder button of any item on your tab. You can also select from a list of specials at the bar or you can enter a SpeedMenu code that orders items off the regular menu. The ticket is printed at the bar station and the bartender starts preparing your drink within a couple seconds of placing your order.
Want to close your tab? Simply click the close my tab button and your tab is printed out and ready for the staff to bring you your tab to close out. You can pay with cash or credit card as usual and unlike other systems that try to replace the staff, you get a friendly “thank you” as you close out from a real human being. The key is helping the staff during busy times rather than replacing them.
The level of sophistication goes even further. With a free SpeedMenu account, you can track your tabs, see what you have ordered, what you have spent and can receive future specials at participating bars and restaurants. SpeedMenu announced this week that they have integrated their system with Dinerware – a bar/restaurant point of sale system that has countless installations around the country.
“We looked at the technology in everyone’s pocket,” said Richard Bagdonas the CTO “and realized that we could effectively extend the local POS system.” When asked about security of the information being sent, Bagdonas said “we are not sending any personally identifiable information – period. We don’t send credit card numbers or even a name. We simply send a flag that says the person with tab 123 at table 54 wants another Bud Light. The key is we do it in an encrypted and compressed format that provides two layers of obfuscation.” What does that techno-jargon mean? Your information is safe and you get your drinks faster. The company is demoing the system at this year’s SXSWi and will be launching nationwide in April.