Most diners have experienced an awkward moment when it comes to paying the bill at the end of the night.
But an Irish startup has come up with a solution to bill-splitting woes after Zazu founder Ivano Cafolla recognised a familiar frustration when he was running a bar in Dublin’s city centre.
He had worked in the bar and restaurant scene for more than 20 years, starting in the family business at the age of 15 and subsequently working as a bar promoter and DJ. He set up clubbing promotion brand Afterdark in 2006, then No.5 Vinoteca on Dublin’s Merrion Row.
The venue was using ResDiary to manage bookings.
However, the platform had its limitations, Mr Cafolla says, because there was no consumer front-facing app.
He found that bookings were time-consuming and often the venue was missing out on marketing opportunities as they were not obtaining accurate contact details of customers.
Answering the phone in the middle of a busy restaurant, spelling out unusual names and emails, meant they were missing out on collecting important information, he says.
“With Zazu, the consumer downloads the app and inputs their name, mobile number, and email. So when a booking request goes to the venue, they’re getting all of the correct information straight away. They simply need to accept or reject
“The booking can happen in seconds with the app, versus one or two minutes by phone.”
His experience running No. 5 was that staff could spend 15 to 20 minutes helping a large group to split a bill. With Zazu, diners can easily figure out their share and the waiter can continue to serve.
And he says the bill-splitting element can encourage customers to spend more. “It’s so competitive out there in the restaurant, bar, and nightclub business. Each venue wants an advantage.”
The app cuts out undercharges if someone has forgotten they ordered a coffee or a glass of wine.
“At lunchtime, where the venues make their money is not on the €10 soup and sandwich, it’s on the coffee. So if a coffee is missed on the bill and you multiply a couple of tables every month, a lot of revenue is lost over the year,” he says.
When it comes time to pay the bill, the waiter prints off the receipt and takes a photo of it with the app. The bill is sent to the group’s host and the other diners in the party.
Each person can pay their share through the app and will receive a receipt for the amount they have paid, as well as a copy of the receipt for the total.
A benefit for customers is that the receipt is stored on their phone and an email is readily available to help claim expenses, he says.
Being mindful of GDPR data protection regulations, Zazu uses Stripe as its payment provider, and doesn’t store credit card details.
Zazu’s revenue model is based on a €100 monthly subscription for the venue, plus a small percentage of bills. The app is free for the customer. An exception is if they use a queue-skipping feature for nightclubs where Zazu takes a portion of the entry fee.
Early on, Mr Cafolla approached John Moore, founder of medtech firm 3D4Medical, for advice. The entrepreneur invested €50,000 in Zazu.
Having launched a beta version in late 2017, the app went live in March 2019. Currently, around 20 venues are using Zazu, and Mr Cafolla projects he will have up to 70 signed up by the end of May.
He has recently signed up Paddy McKillen Jr’s Press Up Group. Other clients include Alan Clancy’s NolaClan, Marco Pierre White, and the Michael Wright Group.
He raised £250,000 having registered an office in the North to avail of tax relief under the UK’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, and plans a further fundraising round with the goal of launching Zazu in the UK by the end of the summer.