Start a bar tab on your phone with lo­cally cre­ated Tabbed Out app

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE&ARTS - By Omar L. Gal­laga

Bar-hop in Austin long enough and you will even­tu­ally get that knot in your stom­ach one morn­ing when you re­al­ize you left your credit card at a bar. Your tab was open.

Be­cause soft­ware de­vel­op­ers are mak­ing sure all-too-hu­man foibles are solved by mo­bile apps, one soon ap­peared: TabbedOut, from lo­cal firm ATX In­no­va­tion Inc., de­buted in Jan­uary.

It got a stress test in March dur­ing South by South­west In­ter­ac­tive when many out-of-town geeks were de­lighted to dis­cover they could open a bar tab and pay it with their iPhone or An­droid de­vice. (Geeks love stuff like that.)

The app works at Austin bars and restau­rants in­clud­ing Jef­frey’s, Rio Rita, Mo­hawk and Dog and Duck Pub as well as venues in Dal­las, Hous­ton, San An­to­nio, Chico, Calif., and Can­ton, Ohio.

It’s free to down­load, but charges $1 per tab. The com­pany’s CEO and co-founder Rick Orr says some bars and restau­rants are of­fer­ing dis­counts to TabbedOut cus­tomers to off­set that fee.

Orr and De­vid Lem­ley, the com­pany’s chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer, are vet­er­ans of sev­eral se­cu­rity soft­ware and credit card-re­lated com­pa­nies. We spoke to Orr and Lem­ley about the app:

Amer­i­can-States­man: Once you de­cided to de­velop ‘TabbedOut,’ how long did it take to cre­ate it, and what were the biggest chal­lenges in get­ting it up and run­ning?

Rick Orr: TabbedOut was born out of a long close­out ex­pe­ri­ence at a lo­cal res­tau­rant about eight years ago where it took 55 min­utes to fi­nally close out af­ter re­ceiv­ing my bill. From that ex­pe­ri­ence, I rec­og­nized that the close­out process at bars and restau­rants had a lot of room for im­prove­ment for both the mer­chant and the cus­tomer. Once we val­i­dated our de­sign with our first point-of-sale part­ner, Jump­ware POS — also based in Austin — we spent the first few months fo­cus­ing purely on the in­fra­struc­ture that makes the app pos­si­ble. A highly se­cure way to re­move plas­tic from the equa­tion was key to our model. We cur­rently sup­port both iPhone and An­droid de­vices, with Black­Berry planned for later this year. TabbedOut is in six cities to­day and our fo­cus

Con­tin­ued from D1

is on na­tional ex­pan­sion.

Were there spe­cific things about Austin that made it the ideal city to launch an app like this?

Orr: Austin is sim­ply the best place to find top-notch tal­ent with the start-up men­tal­ity nec­es­sary to take an idea and turn it into a com­pelling busi­ness. Fur­ther­more, I can’t fathom f in­d­ing bet­ter lo­cal mer­chants to work with in launch­ing new technology like ours. From Shangri-La to Polvo’s, our ear­li­est mer­chants not only let us launch at their venues but also helped drive prod­uct de­ci­sions to best suit the needs of their man­age­ment, staff and, of course, cus­tomers.

The app got a lot of at­ten­tion dur­ing South by South­west In­ter­ac­tive. Was it the per­fect storm for a geek-friendly app that can be used in places where peo­ple from out of town wanted to drink and party?

Orr: We en­joyed par­tic­i­pat­ing as an exhibitor at SXSWi, and we were im­pressed with how our early adopters im­me­di­ately got it. Austin and

‘Us­ing TabbedOut lets the server know that you are not only tech­savvy but also plan to give a good tip.’

those from the in­dus­try that visit dur­ing SXSW are great evan­ge­lists and sound­ing boards for new technology like TabbedOut.

You’ve said that your com­pany’s not just work­ing on apps, but a whole plat­form for restau­rants and bars. What do you think the fu­ture of eat­ing out and drink­ing will be like once ev­ery­one has a phone that can run apps like this?

David Lem

ley: I ex­pect the par­a­digm

RICK ORR for the way peo­ple in­ter­act with bars and restau­rants to shift to an ex­pe­ri­ence where lo­ca­tion-based ser­vices meet with a more se­cure and con­ve­nient way to pay. This is im­por­tant for the mer­chants who are try­ing to max­i­mize ef­fi­cien­cies as well as the pa­tron that not only wants the best deal he or she can get but ul­ti­mately wants con­trol of when he or she can leave. Mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions are the con­duit to the pa­tron, but our plat­form is what makes it easy and at­tain­able for thou­sands of bars and restau­rants.

What kinds of se­cu­rity prob­lems does TabbedOut help pre­vent?

Lem­ley: Ar­guably the most

ATX In­no­va­tion Inc. co-founder

prom­i­nent source of fraud is from what is known as the “waiter at­tack,” where some­one takes a photo, an im­print or the ac­tual mag-stripe data from a credit/debit card. By re­mov­ing plas­tic from the equa­tion and never stor­ing any pay­ment in­for­ma­tion on our servers, TabbedOut al­le­vi­ates this com­mon at­tack. TabbedOut’s se­cu­rity de­sign fo­cuses on en­sur­ing that the

card­holder data is pri­vate be­tween only the pa­tron and the mer­chant’s point-of-sale. Ad­di­tion­ally, mea­sures are taken to pre­vent sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion from be­ing ex­tracted from lost or stolen cus­tomer de­vices (such as phones).

Has there been any talk of in­cor­po­rat­ing TabbedOut technology with any of the pop­u­lar so­cial me­dia ser­vices like Face­book or lo­ca­tion-based so­cial me­dia ser­vices like Foursquare or Gowalla?

Orr: We have lis­tened to our cus­tomers on this topic and are ex­cited to be­gin adding se­lect in­te­gra­tions with so­cial me­dia and lo­ca­tion-based ser­vices in an up­com­ing re­lease.

Are there sit­u­a­tions where you wouldn’t rec­om­mend us­ing TabbedOut? Like, say, if you’re re­ally in­ter­ested in chat­ting with an at­trac­tive bar­tender or wait­staff mem­ber and don’t want to by­pass any con­ver­sa­tion with them?

Orr: We have found that TabbedOut can have a VIP ef­fect in some cases where show­ing your phone to open a tab ac­tu­ally gives the pa­tron some pri­or­ity. One rea­son for this is that each venue is able to set a min­i­mum and de­fault tip amount in our sys­tem. Us­ing TabbedOut lets the server know that you are not only tech-savvy but also plan to give a good tip.

ralph Bar­rera

With TabbedOut, your smart phone al­lows you to start and close a bar tab with­out swip­ing a credit card. The app de­buted in Jan­uary and is free but charges $1 per tab.

Ralph Bar­rera

At Dog and Duck Pub, Rick Orr, CEO of ATX In­no­va­tion Inc., shows how the com­pany’s app TabbedOut can help you start and close a bar tab. The app will give your smart phone a code for you to present to your bar­tender or wait­ress. The app now works in bars and restau­rants in six cities in­clud­ing Austin. South by South­west In­ter­ac­tive at­ten­dees put it to the test in March.

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