Should Venmo launch the ability to pay restaurants?
Summer 2011. Venmo wanted to evaluate a potential revenue strategy of launching the ability to use Venmo at restaurants. Setting the challenge of integrating with the restaurtant's POS system aside, my task was to understand what the user experience could be. I conducted ethnography studies at various restaurants in NYC, observing the bill-paying process in detail. 


What is the payment experience like? When would it be appropriate to open the phone in a social situation? What pain exists now in the payment experience? How comfortable would people be with the idea that the bill is already taken care of? How should bill-splitting work?

What types of places would be best suited to paying with Venmo? How does the user mindset differ at cafes / lunch spots vs. dinner?



People can sign a bill and pay by credit card *while* maintaining a conversation

  • Signing a bill is fairly subconscious. It doesn't disrupt the flow of conversation, i.e., conversation flows fluidly around the payment event
  • On the other hand, opening an app at this point would be socially more disruptive as it requires more attention.. need to navigate to the app, confirm a payment, etc. 

Lunch spots with long lines could be good early targets

  • Not privy to same social context of dinners
  • While in line, could order ahead
  • Good examples: Num Pang in Union Square

Payment by credit card is not enough of a user problem currently. Adopting a new app and behavior to pay places would likely require additional incentives.

  • Based on my research, there would have to be another benefit apart from simply paying with your phone. The credit card experience is not painful enough. Perhaps if you could pay in advance and not be required to wait for the check.

Paying restaurants via credit card does not seem to be a big enough user problem currently as compared to the P2P payment space.  Further, to do app payment well (i.e., in a non-disruptive fashion) deep integration with typically old POS systems is likely required, a non-trivial endeavor which would most likely mean building our own POS systems.

=> Stick to prioritizing the P2P payment space for now