The Katy Trail Ice House was a zoo on Friday. There wasn't a single seat available, and there was a wait at the bar to get a beer. Despite the crowd, I was able to get in, order a Lawnmower, chug it and get out in about five minutes. How'd I do it? An iPhone app called Tabbedout that promises to liberate bar and restaurant patrons from waiting around for their check ever again.
Here's how it works.
Once the app is downloaded, you enter the same basic billing information you'd have to enter into any website before you use your credit card. The information then resides on the phone.
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When you walk into a bar equipped with a Tabbedout system and open the app, it will ask you if you want to open a tab. Next the phone displays an alphanumeric code that you display to your bartender or waitress. I flashed the bartender my code over some dude's shoulder and asked for a Lawnmower. About one minute later I had my beer. And about 30 seconds after that, my "tab" appeared on my phone.
When you're ready to check out, you simply select the tip amount you want to leave with a slider, click the pay tab button, and Tabbedout sends you a receipt. It's pretty brilliant.
While I don't see the app providing as much of a purpose at a normal restaurant, its usefulness at busy bars is obvious. While everyone else crushes the bartenders after last call, you can sneak out the front door and hail the first cab home. Or for all you misers out there, you can leave a cheap-ass tip and not have to look your bartender in the eye.
For now there's only a handful of bars using the system in Dallas, but if it works as well for everyone else as it did for me, it will end up in every college bar in the world by next fall, and plenty of others, too.