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Windsor sees 5pc of volume from new social-and-payments app

HouseTab enables users to check in at participating merchants and pay the tab automatically when they leave. Users can also see where friends are checked in, chat with other users in real time and buy drinks or food for any other people in the network.

“There is communication between user and user, and also between merchant and user,” said Andrew Tauber, chief executive officer of New York-based HouseTab. “The merchants love that they can send messages to users in the network.”

David Marino at Windsor, a bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, said the app has been even more popular among the bar’s patrons than he expected.

“It is really picking up steam,” he said. “It is picking up much faster than I thought it would.”

Social aspects
Mr. Marino said the high degree of functionality of the social aspects of the app attracted him to work with HouseTab. He also liked the fact that the app allows for communication with guests of the establishment.

“It really is much more than just being able to summon a server or pay the bill using mobile,” he said.

Mr. Marino said  Windsor’s servers are promoting the app to patrons, and that word-of-mouth is also expanding use. He added that he also likes the user analytics that HouseTab provides.

“I think it is great to be at the forefront of any emerging industry, such as social media and mobile payments,” he said. “This was a good fit for us.”

Mr. Tauber of HouseTab suggested that restaurants and bars could use the app to promote specials and offers spontaneously to generate excitement. For example, a bar could send a message out to users who have checked in offering a free drink to the next three patrons who wish the bartender a happy birthday.

Eyeing growth
HouseTab is seeking to expand to additional merchants in the New York area and is also eyeing expansion to other cities, per Mr. Tauber. He declined to reveal where it plans to expand for competitive reasons.

The company is doing some marketing to reach consumers, and hopes to eventually spread through word-of-mouth when it gets more scale. It is currently accepted at 18 bars and restaurants in the New York area.

“Creating a network and really getting people to engage will be what matters,” Mr. Tauber said. “We think this is a great way to send a drink to a friend, a girlfriend or even a buddy in another city — maybe a buddy in Miami who is watching a Knicks-Heat [professional basketball] game, for example.”

In Manhattan, HouseTab is available at Anotheroom, Automatic Slims, Bakehouse, Bayards’s Ale House, Bubble Lounge, Circa Tabac, Local West, Nevada Smiths, Pergola, Rogue & Canon, The Room, The Otheroom, The Royal, The Winslow, Windsor Ganesvoort Park, and Windsor. It is also available at Park Luncheonette in Brooklyn and at the Surf Lodge in Montauk.

Merchants install a HouseTab-provided iPad next to their cash register that allows them to accept the app. Braintree, a division of PayPal, provides the payment functionality for HouseTab.

The app is currently only available in the App Store, but is slated to become available soon through Google Play. Tauber said making the app available for Android is a high priority for the company, although he said he did not have a timetable of when that might occur.

Paula Rosenblum, managing partner of Retail Systems Research, said the app must be compelling enough so that users are willing to trust it with their credit-card information. Adoption of mobile payment has been slow, she noted.

She also said she thinks companies like Facebook or Foursquare could easily jump into this space as a competitor.

“Still, I like the ‘get up and go’ concept,” said Ms. Rosenblum, referring to the mobile-payment option. “This is a solution to the service problem, especially at bars.”

Final Take

Mark Hamstra is content director at Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach him at [email protected]