In April of 2015, MasterCard joined a somewhat crowded mobile ordering field by introducing the Qkr! app in its first restaurant in the U.S., Streetbird Rotisserie in New York. Since that time, Qkr! (pronounced "quicker") has thrived by offering a package of services for diners, including restaurant searches, direct ordering and payment for both delivery and in-house dining, the ability to split the bill among multiple customers, and automatic tipping of servers.
At the Mobile World Congress in February, MasterCard announced an upcoming new feature to Qkr!: the "Open Tab". Open Tab allows you to keep a running tab for the evening at a restaurant, bar, or club without having to leave your credit card with a server or bartender. The new functionality is expected to be available this summer in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
Patrons of participating establishments will simply open the Qkr! app and set up a tab for the evening. The tab establishes a table number that you supply to the bartender each time you place a drink order — analogous to charging your drinks at a hotel bar to your room. When the evening is over, you simply close out the tab in the app — or don't. The app will automatically close the tab at the end of the bar's business day.
Benefits for customers are fairly straightforward. The services are free, and you will not have to worry about forgetting to settle your tab — a surprisingly easy thing to do if you are running a prolonged tab at any place serving alcohol. Nor will you have to ask the server to bring you the bill, wait for their return, then wait some more as they take your credit card, and then return with the charge slip for your signature (and tip!) A MasterCard survey found that servers average twelve to fifteen minutes to close out an open tab, according to Betty DeVita, the Qkr! Platform Business Head for MasterCard.
It's not necessary to be a MasterCard holder to use the service. Qkr! does operate through a secure MasterPass account, but any valid payment card may be registered.
Participating businesses benefit in several ways, starting with improved efficiency. They do not have to worry about dealing with the credit cards that are left behind, and their wait staff has more time to devote to their customers who want to order more food and drink, not end the transaction.
DeVita adds that bars and restaurants will incur the same costs as with their normal credit card processing. However, Qkr! does provide one form of incidental financial advantage. Because MasterCard pre-authorizes the card as part of setting up the tab, establishments are protected from fraud. Patrons trying to pass a fake card will be stopped before they can order their first drink.
While some establishments could clearly benefit by adding Qkr! with Open Tab to their services, universal acceptance is by no means a given. For example, bars and restaurants that have a lower volume may not have any reason to move forward with this service. Others may have their own apps or prefer Qkr!'s competitors.
Even if you are a Qkr! user, you may not find the Open Tab feature appealing — but if you have been known to close down the bar, this new feature may be extremely useful. If you find yourself dealing with a morning-after throbbing head and limited memories of the prior evening, at least you won't have to wonder where you left your credit card. It's likely that you have many other things to worry about.
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