New York City-based startup Cover wants to make paying for your meal at a restaurant ultra-easy — like so easy that you don’t even have to look at the check. So the company has raised $1.5 million from O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures to make that happen.
Here’s the idea: Ever been out to a restaurant with a large group of, say, 10 or so? You’ve just had a nice meal, great conversation, lots of wine and then the check comes and panic ensues. You could do that thing where 10 people all throw their credit cards in to split the check 10 ways. But then there’s always that one guy who has cash, or the person who just ordered an appetizer or doesn’t drink, and probably shouldn’t pay the same amount as everyone else.
Settling up is a pain in the ass, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s the premise behind Cover, which seeks to simplify the process through the magic of mobile payments.
Cover founders Mark Egerman and Andrew Cove decided that a solution was needed to make the experience of paying a check as seamless as paying for a ride on Uber. Egerman, who describes himself as a “recovering attorney” who had previously worked at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told me that, despite the growing number of mobile wallet solutions out there, few consumers were taking advantage of them. Mostly, the two believe, that’s because the user experience just wasn’t that good.
“We wanted a service that lets you dine out and pay without waiting for the check,” Cove said. “Dining out should be about the people at the table around you. We wanted to make it about that experience.”
What they set out to build, then, was a payments platform and mobile application that would reduce all the fuss and calculations that happen when the check comes. It was important to them that the platform would be able to gracefully handle large groups, and also that it would work with restaurants’ existing point-of-sale systems so that they wouldn’t have to install a whole new order, ticket, or payments system.
For users, Cover is designed to allow one-click, instant payments without them even having to get the check. Users simply check in to a restaurant at the start of their meal, and when it’s time for them to pay the final bill, it’s immediately charged to their credit card. They modelled the experience on Uber, which Egerman called “one of the best payment methods” out there.
For groups, the app allows users to check in and choose which members of the party they’ll be paying for. If all diners have the Cover app, it’ll be taken care of with no fuss. For those who don’t have it, they’ll still be able to pay for their share with cash or credit card.
Cover isn’t the only startup trying to tackle mobile payments at restaurants — there’s also TabbedOut, and, of course, Square. But those have some limitations. For TabbedOut, the check-out flow isn’t as simplified as what Cover is aiming for. And Square requires businesses to use its own POS system.
The app is still in private beta, but the startup has raised $1.5 million in seed funding to get it off the ground. The round was led by OATV, with participation from Lerer Ventures and angels, such as Josh Spear, Dave Eisenberg, Ben Leventhal, Naval Ravikant, Andrew Kortina, James Altucher, Mike Greenfield, John McDonald, Chris Muscarella, Ed Zimmerman and Scott Belsky.