In 1950, when poodles reigned supreme on wide skirts, and the innocence of a nation had not yet been tainted by cynicism, vitriol, and second-wave feminism, a businessman named Frank McNamara was finishing up a meal with a few clients at Major’s Cabin Grill in New York City. The check arrived, and McNamara discovered, to his horror, that he’d left his wallet in another suit. His wife paid the tab, and Frank stewed. Imagine, he said, if there were a multipurpose charge card that could be used to avoid such indelicacies. He chatted with the restaurant owner at the table, and a couple of months later, he paid for his meal at that same restaurant using a cardboard charge card and his signature. And just like that: consumer credit was born.
Fast forward to 2013, when Cover co-founders, Andrew Cove and Mark Egerman, hailed a cab on Uber and were impressed with the ease of the service. They quickly realized that eliminating the physical transaction could be applicable to other industries, such as restaurants. When I first heard about Cover, (and Uber, and Snapchat, and Instagram, hereby officially landing me in the incapable-of-identifying-cool-new-apps-camp) I was skeptical. Cover is an app that allows you to pay for meals in participating restaurants without ever taking out your wallet or haggling with your cheap friends over who ate more mozzarella sticks. Simply ‘check in’ when you get to the restaurant, and the waitstaff will know that you are using Cover. When you’re done eating—just leave. Cover’s conquered some really nice restaurants in Manhattan, and yesterday, they officially launched in Bushwick.
But is it really that difficult to conduct a transaction after a meal, and why do entrepreneurs and innovators keep trying to wrest every last ounce of difficulty from my life? And also, as a server, I felt vaguely threatened. Would I still get my tips at the end of my shift?
But Mark Egerman assuaged my fears, and he confirmed that getting people to open up to Cover can offer unusual insight into the behavioral scripts and schemas that govern many of our common interactions. Egerman and Cove admit that, “people have strong expectations and behaviors around food and money.” Every restaurant is attempting to offer an experience that’s “wrapped up in personal, humane terms,” but winding up with something that “is still pure transaction.” And there’s something compelling and old-world and ‘just-put-it-on-my-tab, old boy’ about Cover that has resulted in many satisfied customers and a 4.5/5 star rating on the App Store, and that, I think, Frank McNamara would appreciate.
The advantages abound. Customers love it because it’s easy and it’s free. Restaurants love it because it removes the transactional element from the points of service, fostering that core essential illusion that makes eating in restaurants great, and because they pay less to process credit cards. Currently, one can use Cover in Lachlan and Dear Bushwick, but look for them in other Bushwick eateries soon!