Your stomach curls as you see the dreaded ‘No Split Bills’ sign at the register.

We’ve all been stuck with the bill when out for dinner with friends. Rather than sit at the table and argue over who’s brought cash and who will ‘grab the bill next time’, you pull out your credit card and just hope that your mates sort you out for their share. Except that it never works out like that.

Bill payments at restaurants represent an eternal struggle between retailer and patron. While proprietors of food outlets are concerned with keeping transactions (and transaction fees) down, and keeping their staff on the floor taking orders rather than spending 35 minutes helping customers to figure out who drank how much wine—consumers face the rise of a cashless society, regularly only carrying cards.

This trend has not gone unnoticed by international payment gateways, who (albeit slowly) are working to create easy ways to request and transfer cash. Banks are getting on board as well, with Australian banks ANZ and Commonwealth now supporting quick and easy transfers between family and friends. However, the catch is often that all parties must be members of the same bank.

Bill splitting is not limited to dine-in options however, and takeaway services are beginning to sit up and take notice of this universal issue. Recently arriving in the American market, PayPal owned ‘Venmo’ has partnered with delivery app Foodler to allow diners to split the bill for delivery, at the time of payment. Although not yet available in Australia, Venmo and Foodler have enjoyed great success in the states due to their simple user interfaces, and minimal fees. Venmo will automatically split the bill evenly, when the number of diners is entered into the payment application, saving time and arguments aplenty. While consumers have been able to use PayPal for a number of years now, the fees associated can leave a bitter taste in the mouths of users.

Venmo’s platform encourages users to make a social event out of transferring money, and enables them to broadcast their transactions to the entire Venmo universe, as well as the Twittersphere. Users beware, however, as Venmo attracts similar fees to those incurred by PayPal when using a credit card. While the 3% fee doesn’t sit well with many users, the options of using bank transfer, debit card or prepaid cards are fee-free. Not to mention, using your ‘Venmo balance’ also incurs no fees (if you don’t mind leaving your hard-earned cash sitting within the app, rather than transferring out to your bank account).

The Foodler app itself allows users to rate not only food outlets, but specific menu items, as well as allowing patrons to earn ‘FoodlerBucks’ in a rewards system designed to encourage loyalty in diners. With over half a million users in the USA, it’s safe to say that Foodler is a force to be reckoned with.

Australia’s offerings in the market include Menulog, which allows customers to order from a number of restaurants and takeaway outlets through their app; and new player Deliveroo, who match restaurants and delivery riders with customers—effectively offering a delivery service for outlets which may not otherwise deliver. Both services accept credit card and PayPal payments, however Deliveroo has taken the Uber payment policy of not accepting cash, in order to provide a safer working environment of their delivery riders and also to simplify the system.

Speaking of Uber, the ridesharing service have now extended their offering to food delivery as well. Although the servicing areas are still limited to major metropolitan regions, the service allows you to track your delivery and choose from an ever-growing list of retailers who have partnered with UberEats.

Needless to say, payment options in Australia are still lacking in variety. With the success of apps such as Venmo in the American market, we can safely assume that we will see their migration to Australian shores in due course. In the meantime, we will continue to have to argue about how many whisky sours Robert actually ordered on Saturday night.

No More Bill-Splitting Squabbles: Payment innovations for food retailers
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No More Bill-Splitting Squabbles: Payment innovations for food retailers
Bill payments at restaurants represent an eternal struggle between retailer and patron. This trend has not gone unnoticed by international payment gateways.
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