If you’ve ever waited to pay a bill and leave a restaurant after a long day or because you have somewhere to go, there’s an Ottawa-based app for that.
Elias Hage, co-founder and CEO of app8, first had the idea to streamline the ordering and billing process in sit-down restaurants after his own experiences waiting to pay a bill.
“Constantly it’s a rush, it’s the after-work rush and it’s busy and then all of a sudden, I’m stressing to get my bill,” Hage said in an interview with OttawaMatters.com.
He said service and food could be fantastic but if the customer is left waiting to pay, that might be what they remember most about their experience.
During a similar experience out for dinner and drinks with friends at his previous job at Ernst and Young, Hage began to “peel back the onion.”
“It was late 2017 and there’s AirBnB, Uber, Ritual, Turo, you know, instant service, instant transactions and that friction is gone.”
During his first round of research into the problem, Hage also found about 16 per cent of service staff time is 'wasted' dealing with billing and point of sale transactions, so thought there could be a solution for both customers and merchants alike.
That’s when App8 was born, which upon downloading, allows customers to pay for their bill on their phone at participating restaurants.
The idea was a good start, but Hage said with a marketing and finance background, he lacked technical expertise to make it happen, so he asked a friend of his and now business partner Hani Jabbour for some advice and the pair went to work.
After looking into why other similar solutions didn’t work out, the pair began a list of priorities or some minimum requirements for their new app.
It needed to be minimal change and training for restaurant staff and an easy transition for participating restaurants, while also giving the customer as close to the real restaurant experience as possible.
They spent months to develop a prototype designed to connect at Father and Sons restaurant, who offered to help partner with app8, and then went to work fixing any issues before it went public.
“That was a ‘eureka moment’,” Hage said. “At the very basic level I could see the items I ordered on my phone and…when I hit pay it would register the payment and close the bill.”
"At that point, I’m like, ‘okay, this is the main thing that didn’t exist before and we got there,'” Hage said, adding that’s when the rubber started hitting the road.
After some finesse, app8 now has about 20 restaurant partners in Ottawa, including the Clocktower Group, El Camino, Broadway Bar and Grill and others.
Hage said they hope to expand further in the Ottawa market, which has served as a perfect test market, as well as Toronto before looking at further North American growth and eventually, the hope is a worldwide expansion.
“The move for us going forward…growing our market share, so it’s actually going into more restaurants and that’s tied to the hip with our point of sale integrations,” he said, explaining the company is currently fundraising to make sure it can work seamlessly with more restaurant technology.
There’s more news good news ahead for the Ottawa start-up, with an announcement expected in the coming months, according to Hage.
When it comes to starting your own business, Hage believes anyone is capable of being an entrepreneur but offers up some simple advice for those looking to make a go of it.
“Most people will prioritize their basic needs like their health, family, food on the table, which is normal, so when you’re starting something new you’re putting a lot on the line,” he said.
“Do that before setting out on your venture. Drop everything else in life and make sure those priorities are in order for 12 months at least. Then go into head first and kill it, jump off the cliff...” Hage said.