raildeviceA Seattle area startup is looking to shake up the way we pay for our restaurant bills, tossing out the traditional pen-and-paper method for a new electronic device that they say is easier and more secure.

The company is called Viableware, and today it is announcing that it has raised $6.5 million in series B funding from Swiftsure Capital and others. Total funding now stands at $7.45 million, with the company still on the prowl for more funding as it looks to bring the technology to restaurants throughout the country.

Viableware’s RAIL device allows restaurant patrons to peruse a digital copy of the bill, calculate tips, split the bill, answer survey questions and then “self swipe” credit cards at the table. Customers use a stylus to sign the digital screen, and can choose to have a copy of the receipt printed off at the restaurant or emailed to their personal accounts.

So far, the company has been testing the device at P.F. Chang’s, Dickie Brennan’s, Ethan Stowell Restaurants and other establishments. But, with the new funding in place, CEO Joe Snell said that they will now “address the entire full-service restaurant industry from coast-to-coast.”

The RAIL device works in conjunction with point-of-sale systems from MICROS, NCR Aloha, and Dinerware, with Snell telling us that it is more secure than traditional payment options now in place. It also allows for additional services, and more intelligent tracking of customers’ tastes and behaviors.

Here’s a demo I got of the technology last year with Snell showing it off at Boom Noodle at Seattle’s University Village.

Comments

  • Guest

    Although I commend Viableware on their investment, I believe that the future of restaurant experiences will rely less on leather folios and more on location-based mobile payment systems.

    The worst part of any restaurant experience is that point when you’ve enjoyed your meal and your party wants to pay. If you’re anything like me, each person in your party wants to pay with his own credit card. From the time I first clap my hands and bellow, “Boy, the BILL!” it takes 10-20 minutes just to get one of those stupid leather folios. Then, when we hand the boy a detailed mapping indicating how much is to be charged to each of our cards, one of several unacceptable scenarios follows:

    1. The boy cites some law that says he can only process 6 cards per table. (Not only is this not a policy, but in my opinion it’s illegal.)

    2. The boy takes forever to process these cards.

    3. The boy errs, forcing us to rip up the receipts and instruct him to try again.

    This whole episode inevitably destroys our experience at the restaurant, leading us patrons with no choice but to leave devastating reviews on Yelp.

    Instead, consider alternatives. I usually dine at places where I don’t have to hand my card to a minimum-wage mendicant to begin with. I simply sign in using Square and say, whilst I place my order, “I’ll have an insalata verde with the dressing on the side, and I’d prefer beefsteak tomatoes instead of the grape tomatoes. Also, you misspelled ‘vinaigrette’ on the menu. We’ll also be sharing a bruschetta (pronounced correctly) appetizer; I expect to pay for one-sixth of this. Now, once we’re done with that, I’ll be having the gluten-free pasta with free-range chicken, and I’d prefer if the pasta be al dente; I’ve had this in the past and it was like soup. By the way,” I add slyly, “I’ll be paying with Square.”

    Moments later, my phone buzzes with a detailed tab of my salad, my 1/6 appetizer, and my main. Once I am done eating, I can indicate a tip (or not, since tipping is strictly optional) and proceed directly to the exit where my Uber is waiting to carry me home.

    The future of the leather folio, in conclusion, is that it shall be replaced with a mobile-phone-based paysys.

  • http://eyejot.com/users/davidg davidgeller

    I have to believe that the true future of mobile payments rests not with a proprietary device (except, perhaps, for a dongle mag-strip or NFC reader) but with proprietary software and services running on wildly available consumer hardware – our smart phones. For me, few commerce experiences are as enjoyable and effortless as walking near Trabant and using Square Wallet on my iPhone to pay for drinks (for me and my friends).

    I applaud all entrepreneurs and wish these guys well, but their high-level of successful fund-raising have now catapulted them to near big-player status and, with it, a deserved level of criticism. Nothing I saw in the preview video couldn’t be done (perhaps even more stylishly) on a smartphone.

  • Brant Williams

    The back office and related institutional infrastructure of this industry are driving forces. Either work with the back office systems, or reinvent the entire system. When doing some DD on this company, I came in with the ‘meh, square and some shiny app/software can do this in a heartbeat’. After really learning about the back office, I had a much different opinion.

    Congrats to ViableWare. While the long game may be mobile payments, this is a needed first step to evolve the industry. There is a reason why they have the traction they do.

    Go get em. haters gonna hate.

    • http://eyejot.com/users/davidg davidgeller

      I don’t think the first poster or myself were hating what we saw. We just questioned the logic of proprietary hardware. Nothing says you can’t connect with the “back-office” using an iPhone, iPad or Samsung Galaxy. And, I don’t think I suggested anything of quality could be done “in a heartbeat.” But, I do contend that it would make sense to make the job easier by not trying to reinvent something already done (mobile, touch screen, rich-sensor device) and concentrate on the service and software.

      • Brant Williams

        I agree with all your points and think this should go to the smartphone as soon as possible.

        There’s reasons why these cats didn’t just build an app.

        There will be a day when square (or their likeness) will be the payment systems (and much more) for…but much evolution must occur before that can happen.

        Until then, the market is speaking, and these guys are killing it.

  • joe

    I can’t see myself ever wanting to use this device, it’s too bright and has an ugli UI. Why don’t they just remake this using an E-Ink display touch screen, put the menus on it and make them look when nicely placed in the middle of the table. Consumers can swipe and go and the reader doesn’t need to be ushered around with passcodes and stylus pens…

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