An encounter with the future while dining out

My wife and I went out to dinner Saturday, for the first time in 14 months. We’re vaccinated and fully immune, and restaurants are open where we live.

Here is an interesting part of the experience: When it came time to pay the check, the waitress brought over a paper receipt with a QR code on it. There was a single line of instruction on the receipt, to just scan it with my phone camera.

So I did and my phone gave me a screen with an itemized receipt, including a calculated tip. I tapped the OK button and I was done.

I’m pretty sure the phone was using “app clips,” a new feature from iOS 14 in the fall, where you can download a slim version of an app for one-time use. The app clip was branded “Toast Take-Out.”

The experience underscored how we’ve been hermetically sealed in a bomb shelter and we’re emerging into T!H!E F!U!TU!R!E.

Also, the experience cut out my least favorite part of going out to eat, where we sit and wait for the waitress to process the credit card. Once I’m done eating and have sat for a bit, I’m done, ready to go, not wanting to sit around more and wait for someone to give me back my plastic. So this part of the future is entirely welcome to me.

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If I’m in a rush, I ask the waitperson to bring the check with the food.
If you’re really in a rush, you can give the waitperson their tip up front (in hopes of fast service, no guarantees, of course).

(Note for people living in more developed parts of the world: restaurants in the US usually don’t pay a living wage (sometimes $2/hr), so the wait staff rely on tips from patrons.)

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I sometimes do that when dining out for business, particularly breakfast. I never think of it for leisure dining.

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This app-clip and barcode scheme appears to work well … except when it doesn’t. What happens when there is no cellular signal available, perhaps in the back of the restaurant or deep in a building built with steel construction?

Security-minded cellphone users might want to avoid connecting to a restaurant’s wi-fi network just to make this payment-receipt system work.

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Had you given her a credit card? I don’t understand how scanning a QR code provided access to your identity and banking information.

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Scanning a QR code downloaded a slim version of the app, which accessed my Apple Pay information, just as any app would. Presumably when the transaction went through, the slim version of the app disappeared.

The slim version of the app–it’s called an “app clip”–prompted me to download the full app. I did not do that, because I did not see any need to.

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Sheer efficiency would stop me from connecting to a restaurant wifi just to pay the bill. Easier at that point just to hand over the plastic. Or cash.

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In Thailand many small shops are starting to use a QR code system wherein you scan a code in your banking app and it automatically fills in the details for a transfer. Very simple and I feel in total control of the process (if I can’t trust my bank’s app, what can I trust?).

We still don’t have Apple Pay available here, though, so I doubt we’ll see app clips any time soon.

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Had the exact same experience last Thursday. Much more convenient.

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Sounds like a seemless experience, I love the idea of having it all setup that way. I would be curious what the restaurants thinks of this.

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“In the year 2000…”

That’s pretty cool and I think it’s an efficient and sanitary way to pay the bill. I do have some concerns though. I tend to look over the App Privacy ‘nutrition label’ before downloading apps and tend to stay away from ones that sell your data. I wonder if the app clip can still access/use your personal data for said matters?

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In my days of dining out in Europe some decades ago – as a rather naive, wide-eyed American – I learned the value of dining with others as a way to enjoy the pleasure of the company at the table with me. It always strikes me even now as sad to watch/hear about those so impatient for a “go in, sit down, eat, pay, and leave” experience, especially to the extent that such things as modest delays in getting to pay seem to completely ruin the dining out experience.

Zahlen bitte …


JJW

I had the same wonderful experiences in Germany, France and Spain.

I wonder how much the business need to “turn the tables” contributes to our lack of leisure when dinning out.

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They are designed to be quickly installed without needing traditional evaluation of an App Store app profile, so are fairly restricted and can’t request any additional permissions but temporary when-in-use location. This developer overview is the most clear explanation of the privacy and resource limitations.

Last I paid with Toast, I could just pay in mobile Safari, too.

https://developer.apple.com/documentation/app_clips/choosing_the_right_functionality_for_your_app_clip

Also, I really enjoy long, leisurely meals, and I also want to pay with my phone. They’re not in conflict!

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Yes, I enjoy long, leisurely meals, but when I’m done I’m done and want to get out.

And sometimes, during normal times, I’m grabbing a break while out and about for work and need to eat fast.

In this case, I was having dinner out with my wife. I saw her all day at home before dinner, and would see her at home after dinner (and am delighted by that!). Dinner was neither rushed nor leisurely.

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I had a “similar” experience. Since all the restaurants are still closed in my country, there are some “underground” clubs you can go. Since they can’t operate their payment terminals, they usually give you QR code for a bank transfer with the amount + tip. Also convenient given the “illegality” of the whole thing :slight_smile:

Fortunately my state has not undergone the looney draconian lockdowns elsewhere, so we’ve been going out somewhat regularly to support our local restaurants. On that note, I’ve had similar experiences recently, but not with the check. It was with the Menu. Instead of traditional menus that you receive from the server, there is a QR code at the table. You scan it with your phone and up pops a web page with all the food and drink selections. Makes much more sense that single use paper menus that some places give you.

Sounds like rock and hard place. Change your approach to each unique situation or expect each restaurant to be immediately ready to recognize your unique needs.

There must be an app for this.


JJW