Remember that old song about how “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone?”
My experience with a new dining app has convinced me that there’s another facet of that timeworn statement: you don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve tried something new.
Of all the industries currently being disrupted by tech startups, I never really expected my industry—food service and hospitality—to be dramatically affected.
After all, the core functions of a restaurant have barely changed at all since the first modern ones were established in France in the 1700s. You sit down, someone on staff takes your order, once the food is ready you eat it (and hopefully enjoy it) and when you’re finished, you pay the staff. How could that system be improved upon?
Well, it turns out that there are actually a lot of ways, and an app called Rooam is here to show us how streamlined and beautiful the future of food service can be.
The Mother of Invention
“I wasn’t looking for a business idea,” says Rooam co-founder Junaid Shams. “I was just looking for a solution to a common problem. Because I couldn’t find one, I decided to create my own.”
Shams, a passionate foodie, grew up in the culinary paradise of Washington D.C., just as the now-booming local food movement was beginning to blossom there. One of the happy consequences of the boom was that downtown restaurants stayed very busy.
Wait staff was spread thin, and that meant Shams and his friends spent a lot of their time at restaurants waiting for someone to take their order or to bring their check.
Bars were even worse. It could take ages to close out a tab.
Shams realized that for busy restaurants, it just wasn’t practical to expect two or three waiters to simultaneously wait on and act as cashiers for several hundred people at a time.
There had to be a more efficient way—and some new advances in mobile payment technology, paired with a little inspiration, gave him the solution.
VIP Treatment Everywhere
The Rooam app is designed to provide you with the best dining experience possible.
You never have to catch its attention because it’s always at your table. You can use it to open a check, keep track of your bill, and once you’re all finished, pay for your meal all with the press of a button.
Rooam also has cool features that allow you to know if your friends are already at the bar—or if there’s anybody you know in the same restaurant. No more waiting awkwardly by the entrance wondering if you’re the first one to arrive.
“As someone who enjoys eating out, it’s very liberating,” says Shams. “You don’t realize how nice it is to pay and leave the moment you want to until you’ve done it.”
Rooam fits seamlessly into the tradition of disruptive apps like Uber and Airbnb, taking experiences and opportunities that used to belong only to a few and opening them up to anybody with a car, an apartment, or in this case, a phone.
The Speed of Change
For business owners, Rooam is an opportunity to improve the guest experience by focusing less on collecting payments, increasing check sizes, preventing payment fraud and improving the efficiency of operations in general. It’s no surprise that it’s already starting to catch on in popular restaurants and food service parent companies.
The earliest adopters were Washington-area stalwarts like the José Andrés ThinkFoodGroup and Neighborhood Restaurant Group, but Rooam has already penetrated the market to the point where there’s likely an establishment that uses it in your neighborhood.
The nice thing about it is that it doesn’t completely replace the traditional system.
If you forget your phone or you’re a little old fashioned, you can still always open and close a tab manually. Rooam just gives restaurant patrons and owners flexibility, safety, and convenience that the status quo lacks.
With the exception of the drive-thru window or task management software, the food service and nightlife industry overall has proven very resistant to change. But, like the proverbial sand castle, with the waves of innovation lapping around it, it’s just a matter of time before it caves beneath a flood of disruptive innovations and improvements.
You don’t know what you’re missing until you try something new.
For me, I never realized how long I was typically spending to catch a waiter’s attention before I could pay my bill, or how often I was forgetting to close my tab at the end of the night. It never would have occurred to me to complain about these things, because I didn’t know there was a better way.
Now that I know about Rooam, I’m excited to see how it will change the industry. What tech innovations do you see changing the industry in the next 5 years? Leave me a comment below!