TableSafe has raised close to $8 million and received a key certification as it seeks to transform how diners pay at restaurants around the world.
The Seattle-area startup this week received EMV certification, which is short for Europay, Mastercard and Visa. It is the global standard for the new generation of chip cards, and the certification opens a lot of important doors for TableSafe, company officials say.
The growing Kirkland, Wash.-based company makes a device that allows customers to self-swipe credit cards at the table, and do things such as easily calculate how bills should be split and email receipts directly to themselves. The device accepts mobile payments from Samsung Pay, and the company will soon add other mobile payment platforms like Apple Pay and Android Pay.
TableSafe’s goals are to protect customer credit information and make waiters’ and servers’ jobs easier. With the RAIL, the transaction is completed right at the table by the customer. Because the waiter never touches the credit card, TableSafe says fraud is dramatically reduced within restaurants.
“It was initially constructed because of the belief and knowledge that fraud existed in full service restaurants and hospitality situations, where the credit card was taken away from the consumer at a much higher rate than in retail,” TableSafe President Steve McKean told GeekWire. “So we built a solution to deal with that such that the entire payment process could occur at the table and be owned entirely by the consumer, and they would never lose control of their card.
The company started back in 2011, under the name Viableware. Today it has 55 employees, McKean said, with plans to grow to a headcount of around 65 to 70 by the end of the year. Growth should accelerate even further in the first quarter of next year, as the company gets its device in more locations.
Soon after building the first version of RAIL, the announcement of EMV and chipped cards caused the company to change its plans. TableSafe has been gunning for the EMV certification since then. And once TableSafe got it, the company needed to up its manufacturing. That’s where the funding round comes in. TableSafe is raising an $8 million round, and virtually all of it is committed.
TableSafe has partnerships with several large restaurant chains to get its device on thousands of tables across the nation. It has a deal with Landry’s — which operates brands like Rainforest Cafe, McCormick & Schmick’s and Claim Jumper, among others — and Dallas-based chain Fogo De Chao.
While striking deals with big chains is important, TableSafe aspires to get its product into standalone restaurants and smaller chains, which McKean said represent about 85 percent of the hospitality business. The best way to get into that segment is through the restaurant’s point-of-sale service provider. To do that, TableSafe is working with several POS partners and plans to double the size of that network over the next few months.
Though TableSafe wants to speed up the bill-paying process, it is not seeking to automate the entire sit-down restaurant experience. In removing the trips back and forth to the table, TableSafe is looking to free up waiters to focus on customer service.
“One of our key goals here is to enhance the experience, and the experience for the consumer is not to have full automation,” McKean said. “They want service, they want hospitality. Our product is actually out there to make the service better, to enhance the value that is brought to the table by the servers that are there. We actually remove steps in the payment process, so that instead of servers running checks back and forth, they’re providing better service to the people that are still dining.”