Mark Bridge writes:
Recently Pizza Express introduced a new iPhone application that lets customers book a table and pay their restaurant bill. The app was developed by 2ergo, a UK company based in Manchester.
Last week I spoke to Colin McCaffery, Product and Technology Director at 2ergo, to find out how difficult it was to get the app and the restaurant’s own technology working together.
“In the early days, when apps first came out, you saw a lot of what I would describe as quite static apps. What we’re seeing now is many more apps coming out which actually integrate with other third parties and are much more functional. On Pizza Express, we had to integrate with Pizza Express’s systems themselves, integrate with PayPal for payment and also integrate with Pizza Express’s point of sale vendor and infrastructure. The key to all this is to make the customer experience very slick.”
“Take the back-end point of sale vendor, they’d never done anything like this before so they’re really used to closed systems in restaurants, a one-to-one relationship between the restaurant and their back end. We said ‘we need to open this right up and actually communicate over the mobile channel’. So it was quite a big undertaking for them - very much from a thinking point of view - to move to that much more open and more connected experience.”
Research by Pizza Express had shown (understandably!) that asking for and paying the bill were the least-enjoyable parts of a customer’s dining experience. As a result, 2ergo incorporated these features into its app. Customers can now ask for a bill reference number at any point during the meal, enabling them to pay by phone whenever they want.
“You could take your bill, it’s got a reference number on the bottom, you type that into your Pizza Express app. 2ergo then make a data call to the back-end systems of Pizza Express and validate that it is a valid bill at that restaurant; it comes back and it presents the amount to the user. The user can then add a tip onto that bill and they can pay by PayPal. We take the credit transaction from PayPal and we communicate to the Pizza Express back-end systems to say ‘yes, you can release that table’. The really clever bit is that it actually pops up in the restaurant till system to say, for example, ‘table 15 has paid’, so you know you can walk out the restaurant. It takes a traditional internet payment provider like PayPal and it allows you to pay in the real world using your phone.”
Colin said the Pizza Express iPhone app had already been downloaded thousands of times and had reached no.1 in the lifestyle app chart on iTunes.
|Our conversation went on to cover app development, user experience and the creation of a ‘good app’. Click here to listen using the built-in player on our website, pick up our podcasts via RSS or find the show on iTunes.