We've all been there — you're in a hurry to leave after happy hour, but the bar has gotten packed and your waitress vanishes before you can pay your bill.

Or maybe one of your friends has had one too many and you plan to make a quick exit — but the bartender is busy showing off his professional mixologist skills.

The App and Google Play stores are being flooded with food and drink apps that range from a guide to making the perfect cocktail to reserving a table at your local eatery. Now startups have begun to launch mobile payment apps specifically for restaurants and bars in major markets such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco, turning tab management into a piece of cake.

Recently launched, after coming out of beta in November, HouseTab is one of these mobile payment apps that allows users to pay their bill directly from their smartphones, instead of having to wait around for the check.

"We are a social network for bars and restaurants, which basically allows users to check into a bar or restaurant, order as they normally would, and then at the end of night, basically get up and go because their bill comes to their phone," said HouseTab founder Nikko Plaitakis.

Based in New York, the startup is targeting post-college drinkers, and brings something unique to the mobile payment table. It's the first app of its kind to introduce a social element into the growing payment app market. Users can chat with friends who also have the app, which allows them to find out which restaurant to meet at after they check in via the app, or which bar their friends will be at during a weekend pub crawl.

The social feature also offers a way for users to see who is at a particular establishment, chat with them beforehand — and then possibly meet for a date.

"We have a social component, whereas friends on the network can send food and drink via the network," Plaitakis said. "And we are the only ones that have that."

Users have the ability to send and accept "gifts" with other users – such as a dessert for a friend's birthday or a cocktail to the attractive woman at the bar – as well as decline the freebie or stash it for later.

 

HouseTab is currently available for use in about 50 food and drink establishments in the New York City area, with plans for expansion.

The app is available to download for free both on iOS and Android. 

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