"We're trying to remove that awkward dance between you and your waiter" when it's time to pick up the check, said Scott Jampol, OpenTable's senior vice president of marketing. A long wait for a check can "change people's whole experience at the end," he said.
There are some catches. For one, the service only works with the iPhone. Second, you'll have to book your meal via OpenTable, and at one of the participating restaurants. But once you're there and checked-in with the host, the company's app will let you see your check update in real-time after you've ordered. From there, you can choose how much to tip, and then pay with whatever credit card you've opted to add to the app. Once you're finished, you can just leave -- no need to wait on the server to get you the check. The restaurant will see that you've paid and close out your bill once you're done.
OpenTable decline to comment on who handles its payment information, but Tiffany Fox, the company's senior director of corporate communications, said that OpenTable itself does not store the credit card information on their servers. It's also specifically designed the payment process to work with users' existing OpenTable app and restaurants' existing point-of-sale systems, so it's fairly easy for everyone to adopt without having to install new registers or new software.
That's key for companies such as OpenTable. Mobile payments are becoming an increasingly important part to many service apps -- and vice versa -- as people do more with their smartphones. Square recently announced a pilot program in New York and San Francisco that lets you order your coffee from your smartphone, then use your location data to let the shop know when to start making it. OpenTable has also announced that it's already on board with another new mobile payments service, Apple's upcoming Apple Pay.
Jampol, Open Table's marketing executive, added that D.C. was an attractive market for the service, thanks to its growing culinary scene and a high number of folks who use OpenTable. He said that the company first wanted to approach a good mix of restaurants to test the service, in order to get a lot of information about how different diners use the payments portion of the app. The company expects to add more restaurants soon.
Here's the full list of restaurants participating in the program, starting Tuesday.
• Aggio – Washington, D.C.
• Chef Geoff’s Rockville – Rockville, Maryland
• Chef Geoff’s Tyson’s – Vienna, Virginia
• Copper Canyon Grill - Silver Spring – Silver Spring, Maryland
• Del Campo – Washington, D.C.
• Family Meal – Frederick, Maryland
• Georgia Brown’s – Washington, D.C.
• J. Paul’s - Georgetown – Washington, D.C.
• Jaleo Crystal City – Arlington, Virginia
• La Caraqueña Latin America Cuisine – Falls Church, Virginia
• LIA’S – Chevy Chase, Maryland
• Lincoln - DC – Washington, D.C.
• Old Glory – Washington, D.C.
• Paolo’s Ristorante - Georgetown – Washington, D.C.
• Paolo’s Ristorante - Reston – Reston, Virginia
• Ping Pong Dim Sum - Dupont – Washington, D.C.
• Range – Washington, D.C.
• Roofers Union – Washington, D.C.
• Southern Hospitality – Washington, D.C.
• Teddy & The Bully Bar – Washington, D.C.