Tips from a tech startup that’s cooking up a storm in restaurants

September 22, 2014 10:17 am The UK Domain

By scanning a QR code fixed to your restaurant table, Flypay gives you the option to view your itemised bill, split it and pay on the spot. At the touch of a button the app minimises the time a customer spends waiting to pay, from an average of 10.5 minutes to just 60 seconds.

Alternative payment is a fast-growing industry and Flypay is at the forefront of it. From securing investment to seeking expert advice, Tom tells us what it takes to lead the way in this new area of business.

Identify a ‘pain point’ that you want to solve

“Prior to starting Flypay, my business partner Chris Evans and I ran a design agency. We spent our days exploring how newly improved customer experiences could enhance revenue in bricks and mortar environments. We ended up applying our work to the restaurant sector for a client, and from there it was clear that ordering and payment – particularly payment – were significant problems, or ‘pain points’. We found that a few minutes of frustration at the end of the meal could cause customers to lose their goodwill for a brand. Our research revealed that both customers and operators would benefit from a faster payment process. It was a perfect pain point for us to try and solve.”

Do your research

“Researching your market is vital for any tech startup as it will help you to find and focus on a unique problem area. Our research showed that of the customers we surveyed, over 60% wanted the option to split the bill. Research further demonstrated that the average time taken to pay for small groups was 10.5 minutes. Add on another 90 seconds if everyone at the table is paying by card. We decided these were problems that needed to be addressed. Although similar apps existed on the market, they didn’t solve this problem. Our focus on customer experience set us apart from others trying to do a similar thing, which was critical to our success.”

Test the market

“Chris and I initially came up with the idea mid-2012. We were convinced someone else bigger and better would do something about it since it was such an obvious problem, but when nothing came along we developed our prototype over Christmas 2012 and emailed a couple of target restaurants. In February 2013, the Mexican restaurant Wahaca told us they were interested in using the technology and from there on in we developed the first generation of the platform and the iOS and Android apps, raised our first round of funding, and went live in September 2013.”

Seek advice

“We talked to a lot of other entrepreneurs who all had a great deal of advice, particularly around fundraising. Some of it was good, some bad. The difficult thing with starting up a company is you don’t know what you don’t know until you’re in the thick of it. There are a lot of things to learn, even if you’ve run a company before like we had, so it’s always best to get as much advice as you can, whether it’s from friends, family or other entrepreneurs and experts.”

Find partnerships

“In our experience, we found it important to establish business partnerships that offer mutual benefits. Wahaca were very supportive as we developed the product to meet their operational needs. Through working with them we began to design the staff-facing platform, and the app experience evolved immensely. Wahaca saw a potential benefit for their business and it became a true partnership.”

Secure investment

“There is so much involved in an investment process that is new and unknown but having someone you can trust to look out for you is extremely helpful. I was very fortunate in the first round of investment because my father, who formerly ran a business angel network, was able to advise me about funding. In our venture capital round, I relied heavily on one of my angel investors, who was invaluable. An investor with years of experience and helpful advice is worth their weight in gold.”

Move quickly

“Move very, very quickly. Don’t wait until the technology is finished before you start to sell it into businesses and consumers. There will be limited headspace for similar propositions. If I could go back, I would have started when we first had the idea and not waited around as long as we did. We’re now engaged in a land-grab with a variety of other apps emerging on the market.”

Think ahead

“For the moment we need to ensure that our core product is reaching as many customers as possible but we never stop thinking about our potential. We plan to extend our experiences beyond alternative restaurant table payment. We are looking into a smart way of paying at a bar, exploring loyalty opportunities, improving group social experiences and using the data we have to improve an experience in real time.”

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