HIGH TECH Tech firm makes it more convenient to dine out
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.”