HIGH TECH Tech firm makes it more con­ve­nient to dine out

The Georgia Straight - - High Tech - By Kate Wil­son

The num­ber one com­plaint about eat­ing out in B.C. might be the eti­quette of tip­ping, but the sec­ond is doubt­less the strug­gle to merely get the bill. Many hours are wasted try­ing to catch the eye of a busy server, lead­ing to frus­tra­tion for the cus­tomers and, po­ten­tially, a smaller tip for restau­rant staff.

Van­cou­ver com­pany Ready spied op­por­tu­nity in that an­noy­ance.

“When Ready was built, it was cre­ated with the idea that peo­ple could self-pay at a restau­rant at the end of the meal, or any­time dur­ing it,” Tori Dun­das, head of strate­gic part­ner­ships at the Van­cou­ver startup, tells the Ge­or­gia Straight on the line from her Coal Har­bour of­fice. “The thing that sets it apart is that it’s not an app and you don’t have to down­load any­thing. In the restau­rant, there is a QR code on ev­ery ta­ble. If you have an iphone, you lit­er­ally don’t have to press any­thing: you hover your cam­era over the code, your bill pops up, and you pay it elec­tron­i­cally. The level of con­ve­nience is what sets us apart from ev­ery­one else.”

Shortly af­ter pi­o­neer­ing its self-pay tech­nol­ogy, the com­pany saw an open­ing to tackle an­other prob­lem. In­stead of re­ly­ing on wait staff to take and process or­ders—par­tic­u­larly in bars or pubs—ready de­vel­oped the abil­ity to self-or­der. As with its self-pay mech­a­nisms, cus­tomers can scan the QR code on the ta­ble, which brings up a full menu. In­di­vid­u­als choose what they want, and send their direc­tions elec­tron­i­cally to the kitchen, and servers bring the food or drinks to the ta­ble. The de­vel­op­ment, Ready says, al­lows in­di­vid­u­als to or­der and pay at will.

The tech­nol­ogy is start­ing to ap­pear in a num­ber of restau­rants across Van­cou­ver. Cur­rently at Ma­hony & Sons, Ceili’s Ir­ish Pub, and Olympic Vil­lage’s Brewhall, Ready is help­ing a num­ber of es­tab­lish­ments man­age or­ders dur­ing busy pe­ri­ods. By al­low­ing servers to take on big­ger sec­tions and re­duc­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tive as­pects of their jobs, the com­pany’s self-or­der and self-pay sys­tems aim to im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence of eat­ing out for both staff and pa­trons.

“Brewhall, for ex­am­ple, in­vited us in to see how the Ready plat­form could work and solve some of the is­sues their restau­rant was hav­ing,” Dun­das re­calls. “That’s when they said, ‘Oh, my gosh—this or­der­ing sys­tem could re­ally change ev­ery­thing.’ At Brewhall they have a re­ally unique sys­tem where you line up to or­der and then take a seat. We’re cur­rently pi­lot­ing our tech­nol­ogy there where you can take a seat right away and or­der through Ready.”

Af­ter se­cur­ing a num­ber of con­tracts with lo­cal restau­rants, the team was look­ing to ex­pand into new mar­kets. Ex­cited to show other busi­nesses their suc­cess, one em­ployee ca­su­ally ap­proached a con­nec­tion at B.C. Place with the tech. Af­ter look­ing at its ca­pa­bil­ity, the sta­dium gi­ant asked if it could im­ple­ment the self-or­der­ing into its seats. Soon af­ter, Ready was launched in the arena.

“Each seat in the club sec­tion and White­caps FC pitch­side club sec­tions has an in­di­vid­ual QR code,” Dun­das says. “You scan it, and then the full menu is pulled up. You can se­lect the items you want to buy and then pur­chase them, and then a food run­ner brings them down to you.

“B.C. Place has been such a great part­ner of ours, with test­ing out our tech­nol­ogy,” she con­tin­ues. “We started with 200 seats, and within a week they wanted to get up to 1,500 seats, which we have in there now—and we want to go even fur­ther. It’s proven it­self in the ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s not some­thing we have to push on peo­ple when they’ve tried it. It’s re­ally helped on the sta­dium side for cre­at­ing oper­a­tional ef­fi­cien­cies but also helped guests have a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence by not stand­ing in line­ups.”

With more busi­nesses tak­ing note of Ready af­ter its suc­cess at B.C. Place, the com­pany is now in con­ver­sa­tions with lead­ing sta­di­ums across North Amer­ica, in­clud­ing some that house NHL, MLB, and NBA teams. De­spite its grow­ing buzz across the con­ti­nent, how­ever, Dun­das is happy that the startup still calls Van­cou­ver home.

“[The part­ner­ships] we have with lo­cal com­pa­nies re­ally speaks to the spirit of the city and how we work to­gether to grow re­ally cool ini­tia­tives,” she says. “B.C. Place, for in­stance, saw the tech­nol­ogy and loved that we were a lo­cal Van­cou­ver com­pany. We loved that they are too, so be­ing part­ners at the fore­front of launch­ing all this has been a re­ally great ex­pe­ri­ence.”

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