Like practically everything else, dining continues to get more digital.
Apps like Cover, which launched in October, are targeting the final part of your dining experience — when it’s time to pay up. Cover saves your credit card information so participating restaurants, 40 as of press time, charge you through the app instead of giving you a bill at the end of your meal. A non-itemized receipt is sent by e-mail.
Cover makes it easy to divide a bill among parties at a table, and even takes care of the tip. It then takes a percentage of the bill from the restaurant as revenue. The app has a few thousand users so far.
“You can enjoy your meal, have a great experience with the other people around you and not have to take your wallet out of your pocket at the end of the meal and also not have to take your phone out at the end of the meal,” said Andrew Cove, a co-founder of Cover. “Tell your waiter you’re paying with Cover.”
“We’ve tried to remove some of the — the way we make reservations, all the way through to the end of the meal,” Ryan Hardy, owner of Charlie Bird at 5 King St., which was one of the first restaurants to subscribe to Cover. “If we could include technology along the way but still provide a warm experience, we’d go with it.”
“It removes some of the awkwardness when the bill comes,” he said of Cover. “When you take your in-laws out to eat and you want to pay the bill you have to find a way to strategically give your credit card to the waiter or the server. There’s always a fight over the bill.” However, convenience comes at a cost, even a small one.
“People feel that they don’t know how to end the meal because they’re so used to getting a check dropped off,” Hardy noted. “So they feel like they’re walking out on the check.”
But Mickey Lukens, 22, who lives in East Harlem, has been a member of OpenTable for more than a year and loves it. He said he would like to subscribe to Cover and thinks diners will create a new ritual to end a meal.
“With me, when I’m finished with my meal, I’m usually on to the next thing, and sitting around waiting there for something to happen is just boring for me and it’s just a waste of time,” he said of waiting for the check instead of using an app to pay for his meal.
Heather Cross, a 35-year-old mother of two who lives in Caroll Gardens and recently paid her bill at City Winery on Hudson Square with PayPal, said since people already get their phones out to calculate diving a meal among parties at a table, paying a bill with Cover is just an added convenience.
“I guess when the wine is gone the meal will be over,” she said.
As for the future of technology in dining, and any fear that people will eventually need to own phones to eat out — and that aspiring artists will lose their day jobs as waiters to technology, not to worry, Hardy said.
“We really think that service will never be replaced,” he said.