So how have the people in the land of Alipay evolved in this aspect? While in Hangzhou for a few business meetings, we ate out at a famously local restaurant – where you have to queue for at least 45 minutes to get a table.

It’s still the old fashion way when you order your food. You get a pencil and paper form which lays out the entire menu and you can take your time to tick what you want to eat. The waiter will come over to confirm your order and advise you to add (or reduce) the food you’ve ordered.

 

In some restaurants, people can use iPad or WeChat to order

 

The evolution happens at the end of the meal. You no longer have to call the waiter over to verify the items you have ordered or make payment by cash, credit card or even scan each other’s Alipay or Wechat account.

As with most Chinese restaurants, you get an order slip once you lock in your order. The enhancement in this restaurant in Hangzhou is that there is a unique QR code at the bottom of the receipt, and at the end of the meal, all you need to do is to scan this QR code with your phone.

 

The QR code makes our life more convenient

In fact, when I asked to settle the bill, the waitress passing by smiled, “you can scan the QR code at the order slip,” before dashing away. No, cash or card was not even offered as a payment option.

 

Payment by phone, just so simple

What does this tell us? First, the restaurant wants to focus its staff at the beginning of the journey where the waiter’s role is to take the order, give recommendation and give the best customer experience.

Of course, the restaurant could install iPad and let the customers take their own orders, but that’s going to be expensive to install the iPad. Ultimately, with all these iPads (or other pads) installed at different establishments in (especially) Singapore, have you ever seen one that is as smooth as human being taking the order? How many would allow you to make payment direct?

At the payment stage, not much interaction is actually needed, aside from checking the order and amount. How to close off this transaction in the fastest and most economical way? Again, with your phone.

In fact, after you have made your payment, the Alipay page on your mobile phone will prompt you that moving forwards, you can order straight from the app, without even the paper menu in the very beginning.

Small tweak to the existing process. But this is an evolution in food transaction – a synergy of the old and the new (and neither cash nor iPad is part of the equation).

There is a crucial enabling factor for this (in case you want to copy that in your own country): wide adoption of a mobile payment app that allows others to build menu, kitchen process etc. within.

Otherwise, good luck convincing the customers to download your app only for (your) restaurant ordering.

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