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Tab's Adam Epstein on the New Check-Splitting App

Adam Epstein and the rest of the Tab team want to improve the dining experience for Toronto restaurant-goers. The new mobile application, dubbed the "Uber of Dining," allows users to pay and split restaurant bills directly from their phone. Gone are the days of sitting and waiting for your server. Now, you can pay the bill whenever you are ready, with the click of a button. Here, beyond the basic functionality of the app, Epstein discusses how Tab came to be and how it would directly impact the Toronto dining community.

What made you want to create an app like Tab?
Our founding team, myself included, is incredibly passionate about food and dining. We've all lived in Toronto our whole lives and have been dining out in this city for many years. At the same time, we're all very passionate and cognizant of the seismic shift towards mobile technology and specifically its disruption in the payment industry. Our smart phones know so much more about us than the cards or cash in our wallet, and we believed with this knowledge and insight we could enhance the dining experience a great deal.

Why is an app like Tab necessary, specifically in Toronto?
It's interesting, many people in Toronto do not appreciate that Americans have not adopted chip and pin credit cards yet. Meaning, Toronto is the largest North American city in which a server brings a wireless terminal to the table and cashes each paying customer out one by one while he awkwardly stands nearby as the diner decides his tip.

In American restaurants people still sign for their bill. So, you can argue that the problem of paying bills in restaurants is more pervasive in Toronto than any other major North American city. We, and many of the restaurant owners we've spoken to, have reaffirmed this notion and believe that the use of the wireless terminal in dining is a fundamentally broken experience.

Do you think the people of Toronto are adoptive to mobile payments products?
Absolutely. Toronto has emerged as one of the mobile payments capitals of the world. [Taking into consideration] us, PayPal, and some of the mobile wallets being introduced by banks and telecommunication companies, I believe that we're right on the cusp of mobile payments becoming mainstream.

Tab is closing the loop in that experience: theoretically, I could Uber to my dinner, pay with Tab at dinner, pay with my phone at a Tim Horton's after dinner, and pay and retrieve my movie tickets at a nearby Cineplex. We're in a fascinating time here in Toronto.

How will Tab change the restaurant scene in Toronto?
I'd hardly say we will be changing the restaurant scene in Toronto. The Toronto dining and restaurant industry is undoubtedly thriving. The chefs, managers, servers, and bartenders are the rock stars in the Toronto restaurant industry and they always will be.

Our goal is not to change anything at all. However, we do hope to improve the dining experience by making it more personal. Traditionally diners have always been thought of as tables on a grid with seat numbers, we believe that they should be viewed as people with names and faces. Fostering this personalization layer to the dining experience is one of the fundamental tenets of our company.

Where can people use Tab?
You can use Tab in 20 Toronto restaurants. The updated list can always be found here.

Over the next few weeks we'll be expanding to other areas throughout the city. Also, we brand our company as "Mobile Payments in Toronto's Top Restaurants"— one thing that is unique to Toronto is that a lot of our city's "top" restaurants have many variances in price points and dining experiences. We hope that our restaurant growth in the near future reflects that variety.

Is there any benefit to being a Tab diner?
Absolutely. Beyond the patent benefits— never waiting for the bill and splitting bills in seconds— one fundamental benefit is being a member of the Tab community.

Fostering a community of early adopters enthusiastic about dining out is a huge priority for us, and we do whatever we can to reward members of our community. For example, three weeks ago we held a private party at The Citizen for our top users during our first month. In a couple weeks, we'll be hosting a pre-opening tasting dinner at Colette for our top five power users and their guests.

We also promote weekly flash promotions on our social accounts (@tabpayments) where diners may receive $20 off their bill if they pay with Tab at a specific restaurant within a certain period of time.

There'll be many more events, and we will do whatever we can to support and cultivate both the Tab and Toronto food community.

Does Tab have any plans to expand beyond full service restaurants?
At the moment we're laser focused on restaurants and providing the best experience possible for both diners and restaurants. We are, however, aware that full service restaurants are only part of the Toronto food and beverage ecosystem and have branched out a number of times away from our core experience.

In an effort to establish our brand and foster relationships with food merchants beyond restaurants, we've taken an active role at local food events, pop ups, and parties— essentially anywhere in which a customer pays for food or drinks. Typically these are one-off events in which we'll offer $5 or $10 off an order if you pay with Tab. It's been a great way to foster hands-on relationships with potential customers and merchants.
—Alexander Lipnik
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