By: Micholyn Fajen

Today’s ever-growing technology of smart phones is closing the gap between restaurants and their customers as innovative phone applications pave the way for promotions, location searches and even help consumers pay their bar tabs.

It’s closer than you think. For restaurant owners and operators, the technology is already knocking at your door.

The mobile development experience brings restaurants closer to their customers than ever before, providing touch points on a variety of levels. Trend watchers report that this year more restaurants will uphold relationships with customers by using iphone apps for menu changes and online ordering.

Last month the popular urbanspoon app branched out beyond mere iphones to offer their restaurant and travel search app on the Android phone platform. urbanspoon allows you to find and choose nearby restaurants and reviews by simply shaking your phone – a virtual Magic 8 ball for the restaurant industry – users keep shaking until they like what they see being offered in their area. read more at

Launched in Beta version, Microsoft’s Custom Tags application allows you to create a tag (similar to a upC Symbol) for your website, advertisements, social media, etc. Consumers, who download the free Tag reader app on their web enabled camera phone, can scan or snap a picture of your tag and it automatically generates more information about your restaurant, your menu and your current promotions.

The best part is that the custom tag allows you to include your restaurant’s branding or logo into the tag itself and connect to your customer in real time. Check it out at offers consumers a 99-cent downloadable phone application that weans through national chain restaurants to offer the top 100 favored, localized eateries across 50 major U.S. cities.

Time to close out the tab? There’s an app for that. Customers who are iphone users can monitor their bar tab throughout the night. An Austin, Texas test market is the first stop in launching the app that allows users to start their tab via their iphone and then close it out without waiting on restaurant staff.

App inventor rick Orr is CEO of ATX innovation, the Austin, Texas- based company behind the launch. Orr says the application is currently wiggling through the test market in his home state and will prepare to launch in Southern California and the Bay area this month with select vendors.

Last year, after a 55-minute wait to close out his own tab, Orr birthed the idea to reduce the hassles for consumers. But he built in added benefits for restaurants and bars equipped to interact with his Tabbed Out application.

“Paying at the table through technology means you don’t have to wait on the waiter. it frees up time for wait staff, too, which are often slammed with business during ‘last call,’” says Orr who hopes to take the application to national levels later this year and include the app platform in products made by Blackberry and Android.

Working with merchants, Orr’s teams configured the application with the ability to split checks, guarantee minimum tips and integrate customer feedback. if patrons thought the service was stellar, they can add comments of praise or even complaint to their bill.

“It helps the merchant, who might see a lower tip, understand why,” Orr adds. As ATX innovation develops more strategic partnerships with Southern California pOS vendors, the application will more deeply penetrate the state. College towns and the Bay area mark perfect locales to launch the service.

Here’s how it works. A coding system allows the establishment to connect with the patron through the application; they enter in the order, and the application links the patron’s payment information to that tab. Soon Orr will launch a website via to allow merchants to see if they have the accommodating point-of-sale system and then self enroll.

“We don’t want merchants to change their existing POS systems or vendors; we want the POS vendors to accommodate us. So we’re interested in hearing from interested locations so we can develop partnerships with their POS vendors,” Orr says encouraging establishments to contact their POS vendors about the opportunity.

A roadmap feature will be added this year which allows the merchant to promote their services to people in the area through the application. Learn more at

Embracing this new wave of technology can’t hurt. Studies show interaction with patrons through the devices they use everyday offer restaurant and bar merchants a higher “touch” experience with their customer that build long-term loyalty. But as tech savvy as your restaurant becomes, reaching the customer is only half the challenge. Creating an experience they can save in their phone as “Favorite” means customer service is still the golden ticket to success.

Why tabbed out Works

ATX innovation CEO rick Orr will launch the Tabbed Out application in Southern California this month. See if the application can help you…

  • Break free from the cumbersome close-out process and let customers pay on their own.
  • Enjoy increased sales during peak hours from the speed and efficiencies of Tabbed Out.
  • Give your patrons a unique and fun experience.
  • Allow your customers to keep their plastic securely in their wallet.
  • reduce disputes by allowing the patron to review their check throughout their time in your establishment.