Zoran Kovacevic tells Malcolm Jolley how his his start-up Ready payment system works.
Zoran Kovacevic plans to change the way we pay for sit down restaurant meals. An MBA with a background in hospitality, Kovacevic is the CEO of Ready, a tech start-up based in Vancouver. The Ready payment system works off of a guest’s smart phone, and Kovacevic thinks his product will do for full service dining what Uber has done to private transportation. I reached him by phone last week to find out how it all works.
This interview has been edited for length, clarity and style.
Good Food Revolution: Walk me through how the Ready payment system works.
Zoran Kovacevic: So, for a customer we can solve one of the major frustrations of a restaurant experience, which is waiting to pay the bill. As a customer you download the app, add a credit card, or use Apple Pay, and you can pay your bill at any time with two taps. The first tap to connect with the hardware which will be on every table, and the second to see and pay your bill in real time: you verify that everything looks good, add a tip and tap to pay and leave. The restaurant is notified that you’ve paid and as you are walking out, your receipt is saved on your phone, or it can be emailed to you, if you opt for email receipts. You can also provide private feedback with the app that goes directly to the restaurant’s manager.
Good Food Revolution: It sounds a little bit like a restaurant version of Uber. Is that fair? I mean in the way that Uber has made rides seamless and recordable.
Zoran Kovacevic: Yes, that’s what we are going for. It’s the same idea to put the guests in control of their dining experience in terms of payments. And there are other features like Discover, where you can find nice restaurants around you, or put your self in a line if there is a line to wait for a table, when you arrive you don’t have to wait. And, of course, Pay. So, we make the dining experience faster, more convenient and on the customer’s own terms.
Good Food Revolution: But how does that help me if I am a restaurateur?
Zoran Kovacevic: For restaurants, the value is they can turn their tables faster. That can have positive effect on revenue, especially during peak hours. Customers aren’t physically lining up to wait for a table, and at the same time they are not waiting to pay. And maybe more importantly, Ready improves the guest experience. Not just for guests who pay with our app to save time, but also for guests who are more chatty and would like more personal attention. Many of our users are professionals, techies, people on the go who don’t have time to wait. They are expensing their lunches or dinners. Then, there are other kinds of restaurant guests who are there for the experience and want to talk to the server. So if I pay with Ready and leave, the server can devote more time to the customer who wants to talk.
Good Food Revolution: And in terms of what the restaurant gets, when it signs-up, there’s a piece of equipment you provide?
Zoran Kovacevic: Yes. We provide the equipment: there’s an iPad tablet that we place next to the POS system for the notifications when a bill gets paid and a small device, that we designed and developed, that’s placed on every table. Guests use it with their app. They scan it with their camera. We call it the table target.
Good Food Revolution: How new is this venture?
Zoran Kovacevic: We are fairly new. We’re still in beta. We’re in a couple of locations here in Vancouver, and we’re just about to launch our Version 3, which will be the trigger point for a proper launch.
Good Food Revolution: I hope you’re coming to Toronto…
Zoran Kovacevic: [Laughs.] Yes, we love Toronto. The funny thing is we were talking before about Uber, but we don’t have Uber in Vancouver yet. We were in Toronto in February for the Restaurants Canada Show, and we discovered that Toronto is the place to be because people are primed for fast adoption by the Uber experience, so Ready really resonates.
Good Food Revolution: I was looking over some of the features of the Ready system, and there was one that I thought might worry me if I was a restauranteur. As a customer one of the things Ready does is let you track your bill in real time. I can think of a few second bottles of wine I might not have ordered if I was keeping track of how much I was spending! Do you see what I mean?
Zoran Kovacevic: [Laughs.] Or, it might just put you at ease, because when you’re in control you feel much better. And these days, people really want to be in control. Another feature we have is ‘Digital Tab’ when if you’re at the bar, you make a tap to keep ordering your drinks. Then you can close your tab when you want. This protects your privacy as a guest because you don’t have to leave your credit card behind the bar. And quite often people forget their credit card behind the bar.
Good Food Revolution: Especially if they’ve had a few drinks!
Zoran Kovacevic: Exactly. And, of course, the restaurant has to forfeit that revenue if they never come back. Maybe the credit card doesn’t have any value to them.