One of consumers' biggest pain points in the hospitality industry over the years has been the process of closing out a bill.
That process can take anywhere from 10 to 12 minutes, according to one industry estimate. One payment platform provider sees that time frame as an opportunity for mobile payments and is addressing this area differently than other companies have in the past with the hopes of gaining a national following.
Rooam earlier this month officially launched a mobile app for Android and iOS that enables users to open, view and close a bar tab right from their smartphone.
Several major restaurant groups in the Washington, D.C., area have adopted the app, including including José Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup, Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Mike Isabella Concepts and Passion Food Hospitality.
Rooam co-founder and CEO Junaid Shams plans to expand the app's acceptance to establishments in Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami in the coming months.
Rooam is not the first company to launch a concept with mobile-initiated bar tabs, however.
Austin-based TabbedOut launched its mobile app in 2009 and was available to merchants nationwide.
Shams said its approach is much different than TabbedOut's because it is focusing on one local market before expanding.
"For us, market density is important," Shams told Mobile Payments Today in a recent interview. "We realize we have a product that works really well. For us to gain traction on the business-to-consumer side, we need to focus on market density."
Rooam plans to have 100 merchants accepting Rooam in the coming months before rolling it out to additional markets.
TabbedOut did not respond to a media inquiry from Mobile Payments Today.
For the consumer, the Rooam mobile app appears to be simple to use. The customer user can open a tab on the app and close it out at any time, even if they leave the establishment.
On the merchant end, Rooam customizes the interface for each business to match the one it's already using.
"We figure out what screens the tabs are being open to [on the bar's POS system] and our tickets are opening up in the same location," Shams said.
He believes the reason why other companies haven't been as successful with their products is because of a one-size-fits-all approach to the POS.
"What other companies do is create a universal product, while we go in and customize it for their current system," Shams said.
Rooam is not using a white-label approach to its business and that's intentional as the company attempts to build a ubiquitous brand.
"When [people] go to a bar or restaurant in D.C., we want [them] to be thinking about opening a tab directly from their phone," Shams said.
New app features and incentives could help to put consumers in that mindset.
Rooam plans to add in-app integration for Apple Pay, Android Pay and Venmo. The last of those could be the first added since Rooam uses Braintree to process transactions. PayPal owns both Braintree and Venmo.
Rooam also is offering first-time users a $5 credit toward their first transaction. The company does charge users a $1 fee to use the service, no matter how small or large the transaction.
Shams would like to enhance the service from the merchant's end with analytical tools. Rooam is free for merchants to use, but a "pro" edition could open up another revenue stream from the company.
Shams also anticipates that as its processing costs with Braintree decrease over time, Rooam can "start taking a cut from the processing fee for the overall transaction."
Will Hernandez / Will Hernandez has 14 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of MobilePaymentsToday.com, he spent two years as the content manager for PaymentsJournal.com, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. Will spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia's Payments Group based in Chicago.