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Summary:

PayPal is expanding two useful payment features — Order Ahead and Pay At Table — to U.K. restaurants. While PayPal is working with all retailers on smartphone transactions, it’s lately taken a keen interest in eateries.

Wagamama PayPal Order Ahead
photo: PayPal

Last year, PayPal retooled its iOS and Android apps to introduce a lot of new digital wallet features in the U.S., most noticeably the ability to pay from your smartphone at restaurants either ahead of time or when you get your bill. Now PayPal is bringing those services to international markets, starting with the U.K.

Among PayPal’s first U.K. customers are Wagamama, which started taking pre-orders through the app; Prezzo, which will bill your smartphone and even split bills digitally between customers; and Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which will let you pick up your order by merely flashing their PayPal profile picture.

PayPal's app being used to pay a bill at Prezzo (source: PayPal)

PayPal’s app being used to pay a bill at Prezzo (source: PayPal)

Though PayPal is most known for its online peer-to-peer payments service, it’s been expanding into the many different facets of mobile payments: in-app commerce, point-of-sale credit card transactions, location-targeted deals and, most recently, the digital wallet. The new restaurant payment features don’t use near-field communications (NFC) like new smartphone payment systems from Isis, Mastercard or Visa. Instead they just rely on an internet connection. PayPal is now accepted as tender in more than 2000 U.K. stores.

With the pay-at-the-table option you check in to a participating restaurant with the app, and at the end of the meal you’re presented with the option of adding a tip and paying your bill with a PayPal account or through credit using the Bill Me Later option. The order ahead option is targeted more at fast casual kinds of restaurants which allow you to move to the head of the line if you called in your order.

While PayPal is expanding its payments features to all forms of point-of-sale retail, its recent focus on restaurants is interesting because in the eateries of the world it can be more than just transaction broker. PayPal is introducing menu data through partnerships with companies like Eat 24, and soon it plans to make in-app menus interactive. For instance, while at a sports bar you could use the app to order another plate of wings without having to flag down your server.

Several other companies are exploring the use of tablet technologies at the dining table, including E la Carte and Buzztime. But while they’re focused on dedicated hardware, PayPal wants you to use the hardware you already have in your pocket.

  1. In the UK I’ve generally preferred the in-app PayPal payment features of a restaurant chain such as Pizza Express – http://www.mobileindustryreview.com/2011/06/the-pizza-express-app-pay-for-your-meal-via-paypal.html

    This packages table booking, getting discount offers and promos, with payment and makes for a rounded option that encourages repeat business.

    I think PayPal will have a hard time challenging the established chip and pin card payments if this is all they have to offer via the PayPal app.

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