Have you ever felt frustrated at a restaurant because you need to leave, but you can’t seem to find your server to pay the bill?
Philly native Mike Bernicker knows that feeling all too well. In summer 2016, he said, he was at a restaurant with a friend when he received a phone call and he needed to leave quickly. However, he was stuck because he hadn’t paid the bill yet and couldn’t find any of the waitstaff.
“I remember saying to my friend, ‘How great would it be if we could have just ordered and paid on our phone,'” he said.
Seven years later, Bernicker is making it happen with his company CheckPlease, which allows customers to order and pay for their meals through a mobile app.
Bernicker studied entrepreneurship at Drexel University. While he was in college, he cofounded and became VP of operations for a startup called Carmate, a platform that helps users communicate with car dealerships.
He is still involved with Carmate, but during the pandemic, Bernicker said, he decided to pursue his passion project and actually develop CheckPlease. He used the connections he made with developers at Carmate to help bring CheckPlease to life.
The original CheckPlease product featured a customer app for restaurant-goers to place their orders and pay. They also developed a merchant app for restaurants to edit their menuds, receive orders and keep track of payment. The company did its first beta test last summer at Pescatore in Bala Cynwyd.
“We would talk to the server and say, ‘Hey, whatever tables you had tonight, let them know that this is offered as a product and we’re gonna put the merchant application on your actual phone, so the orders will come right through to your pocket,'” he said.
Bernicker said he realized his original product was best for low-volume ordering at establishments such as food trucks and coffee shops.
To expand the app, he said, he wanted to integrate the app with a point of sale (POS) system. Recently, the company partnered with GoDaddy Poynt, which allows customers to send their orders to a restaurant’s POS system the same way waitstaff would.
“So now customers can sit down, scan a QR code, order their meal, close their check out, they don’t have to wait for a bill,” he said. “The orders from our platform go directly to the GoDaddy point of sale system. And we find that it’s a really good solution for merchants to turn tables quicker and get people in and out of their establishment quicker.”
Servers will offer the option of CheckPlease to customers, who can place their order and pay remotely and the waitstaff will still bring everything out to them. Bernicker said his app is a good option for restaurants that may be short staffed or who need faster turnover.
CheckPlease is a subscription-based system. The company charges $75 per month for the original system with the customer and merchant apps, but only $10 for the system with the POS system integration because they are trying to get more restaurants to sign up for the whole system.
CheckPlease previously raised a small friends and family round to help develop the app, and Bernicker said now he is looking into more funding options through a pre-seed fundraising round. Future goals for Bernicker also include a focus on marketing, approaching more restaurants in the city about changing up their POS system and exploring more partnerships.
“We’ve created a way for the non-franchise and the mom-and-pop standalone bakery, coffee shop, whatever it might be, to have access to an app platform for an affordable rate,” he said. “We’re really committed to bringing good software to people that might not have been able to utilize it or create it themselves.”Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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