Let's Split: Spend Time Dining, Not Paying

The other night, I was at a local restaurant for Tuesday night trivia with a bunch of friends. We wrapped up the game and began the lengthy process of splitting up a tableful of orders by scribbling who had what on the back of the bill, and referencing which credit card or chunk of cash matched it. My friend Marie (our resident math whiz) ran through the totals to ensure we'd gotten all the line items and covered the tip. Then we had to wait while the staff, slammed with a roomful of people all tabbing out at the same time, tried to make sense of the scribblings and finally handed out a round of individual checks for signatures or change.

As we waited for the 20 extra minutes this process demanded, I just kept thinking, "There has got to be a better way!" 

Turns out, there is. 

Meet Split, the app that lets you pay your bill on your phone, split that same bill with friends, and even place takeout orders. No more waiting when you really just want to leave, and no more scribbly back-of-bill math time (servers everywhere will applaud you for this). Just a meal on your schedule, with wait staff who can now be that much more attentive and deliver better service.

From the Founders: What was the hardest part of launching, and what was the best part?

"The co-founding team has domain expertise in areas such as information security, development, strategy, operations, and design. However, none of the founding members had any experience in payments, which you’d think would be crucial when launching a mobile payments company. We quickly learned all the ins and outs of the payment industry and became knowledgeable enough to shape the industry. The hardest part of launching the venture also became the best part of launching as well. The lack of expertise in payments enabled us to think differently and pushed us to innovate." - Jimmy Patel

The Split team works out of Switchyards Downtown Club, and is a local startup with Atlanta-based founders (meet Daniel DorfmanMatthew SuberRandy Etheridge and Jimmy Patel). They have been getting the word out as they grow by cleverly sponsoring happy hours and events like startup/journalist mixers (don't worry, there will be more!). I also keep running into Jimmy and marketing and PR director Deana Panza working hard at pitch-offs and networking events; I'm not sure the team ever sleeps. (Jimmy, Deana, guys, when do you sleep?)

Split originally targeted only reducing the awkward wait times for large groups to pay in restaurants. However, the founders quickly realized there were actually five pain points experiencing growth in the industry: delivery, reservations, payments, ordering, and marketing. With apps like OpenTable dominating the reservation market, and a myriad of delivery options springing up everywhere (GrubHub, Postmates, Zifty), the Split team (unlike other pay-and-go apps) decided to focus on ordering and marketing as well, and expand beyond just payments.

So how does it work for the diner? Just download the app, add a payment method, click "open tab," and tell your server you're paying with Split. That's it! Your order will populate in the "tab" view, and when you're ready, you can close out. If you need to split with your friends, just tag them in the app and they'll get their portion of the bill to pay. No fuss at all. 

Split currently supports all major credit cards, but their aim is to "enhance the dining experience by making payments invisible and in the background," so they're also exploring additional electronic payment methods that have recently become popular, such as SquareCash or Venmo

From the Founders: What's your advice to other entrepreneurs? Anything that you wish you'd known when you started?

"Rejection equals perfection. Every rejection and challenge is an opportunity to make yourself and your company a little bit better and a little bit stronger." - Jimmy Patel

Okay, we've talked about why it's better for you, but what's in it for the restaurants? Lots of things:

  • Increased productivity: With no patrons waiting on the bill, the restaurant can turn tables faster (an average savings of eight minutes per table!), and not having to wait on cards and change allows servers to concentrate on delivering excellent customer experiences. This in turn leads to:
  • Bigger tips: The industry average is 18%, but Split's gratuities remain around 23%, and sometimes closer to 30%!
  • Better market research: The Split team saw a large disconnect between online review sites like Yelp (which hosts a niche set of reviewers) and restaurants' full clientele. To get a more accurate pulse of the business, diners are required to rate at the end of each experience, and these ratings are private to the restaurant. "This empowers owners and managers to protect their social reputation and approach dissatisfied customers while they are still in their establishment,"the Split team says.
  • Better marketing: Diners scroll through a list of nearby restaurants in the app that match their food preferences, and establishments can create "hyper-targeted marketing campaigns" to attract their ideal prospects or repeat customers. 
  • Easy installation: Split integrates directly into most restaurants' existing point-of-sale systems, no additional hardware needed, and it takes only a few minutes to install and another 20 to provision. They are compatible with the top POS brands, including Micros, Dinerware and POSitouch, and are continuously working to add more.
  • Better security: By using Split's PCI-compliant gateway in the restaurant's own POS system, no physical credit cards or cash pass through the hands of wait staff, removing the chance for theft. (A 2004 National Restaurant Association report found that theft represented an average of four percent of a restaurant’s total food costs!) Having the payment method on file also means patrons can never "dine and dash" because that charge can still be processed.

Split is free to diners, and they're adding new restaurants all the time — currently in multiple Atlanta locations, including Marlow's TavernsIndustry Tavern in Buckhead, Tin Roof CantinaParkbar and more, all over the city. (Fear not, OTPers, they are thinking of you as well: Vin25 in Roswell just joined up!) 

So c'mon, take charge of your dining experience, and let's split!