It’s still very early days for mobile payments, with the vast majority of consumers still not convinced that it really is a lot easier to pay for things using their phones instead of pulling out a payment card or even cash. But companies like PayPal continue to lay the groundwork with interesting implementations for how and where a mobile payment might come in handy — the idea being, it seems, that if you put out enough of these, some will be bound to find traction with one demographic or another and achieve what eBay-owned PayPal calls the “beginning of the end of the wallet.”
The latest development is now coming online in some of PayPal’s international markets and specifically around the business of food. PayPal is today turning on two features in its iOS and Android mobile apps in the UK, to let users order food ahead of visiting the restaurant, and using the app to pay for their food when eating at a restaurant by way of a four-digit code.
Neither requires the customer to present a payment card to complete a transaction.
Both Pay At Table and Order Ahead were announced last year in the U.S. Rob Harper, head of retail services at PayPal UK, tells me that this rollout will kick off a wider push of the services across Europe in the near future. At the same time, it appears that PayPal is rolling out the same features in Australia.
They also follow a successful trial of a pay-by-picture service that PayPal launched last year, which is now also getting expanded across more locations.
The new features are more in line with the work that PayPal has been doing around barcodes and other software-based payment innovations, and they stand in contrast to the more hardware-based approach of Here.
They also seem to differ in terms of what kinds of merchants PayPal is targeting. While PayPal’s Here effort — a dongle that attaches to a smartphone that turns the handset into a card-reading device — has been mainly focused on small businesses that may have found taking card payments in the past too expensive, Pay At Table and Order Ahead seem to me much more focused on how PayPal deals with larger restaurant chains. Early agreements cover eatieries like Wagamama, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and the Prezzo pizza chain.
Whereas Here and PayPal’s other services geared at smaller businesses tend to be very transparent on pricing, in the case of these services, Harper would not tell me the commissions that PayPal takes. Interested restaurants need to make contact with PayPal, which then arranges fees on a case-by-case basis.
While services like Here are about introducing new pieces of hardware into the point of sale system, the new services, PayPal promises, integrate with all standard electronic point-of-sale systems. To use the Pay At Table service, users who are “checked in” to a specific location can get a code generated for them by the restaurant, which then they can enter into their app to pay for a meal, or share with their dining companion to split a bill, either line by line or by percentages. Conversely, if a user forgets to pay before leaving the table, the restaurant can make the charge anyway.
Order Ahead, meanwhile, gives users the ability to access a complete menu from a restaurant, select what they want before going to the location, and then having it there waiting to be picked up, with the charge made at the time of pick up. The first chain to sign up for this is Wagamama, covering some 107 locations.