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DBS disrupts national pastime: queuing for food

Bank's first-of-its kind app will allow customers to place F&B orders and make payments through their phones

DBS's FasTrack app is displayed here by Mr Soo (left) and Old Tea Hut founder Kenny Loy, whose outlet has tested it. The app will be fully available to businesses by December


DBS wants to take cashless payment to more hawker centres and quick-serve restaurants in Singapore, as it gears up to launch an application that has customers directing their orders, and making payments through their phones.

With this first-of-its kind app, DBS is moving towards its goal of reducing the amount of the cash used in small-value payments. And in replacing that exchange of greasy bills at hawker centres, and cutting long queues, the app is also meant to raise productivity of businesses that are struggling with a manpower crunch.

The app, to be fully available to businesses by December, links food and beverage (F&B) business operators with their customers. The customers place orders and make payment to the F&B outlets through a DBS or POSB card, before picking up the orders at a specified time. Card details would be saved in the app, as is the case with most apps that facilitate payment, such as Uber.

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The service, known as FasTrack, will be available at cost price for now, the bank said. And overall, the service is meant to reduce business cost. DBS will seek out government funding to cover some of its costs.

"We will disrupt the need for a (payment) terminal," said Jeremy Soo, head of consumer banking group Singapore, at DBS, at a media briefing. "One day, truly, Singaporeans will not have to stand in line."

Mr Soo noted that this would help F&B businesses that are dealing with a manpower crunch, and is in line with Singapore's Smart Nation and higher-productivity aims.

The app has been tested by a beverage seller, and the bank is now in talks with a few restaurants to roll out the service. The service is targeted at small payments, said Mr Soo. "It probably won't work with a posh French restaurant."

Each app would be customisable to the restaurants' needs, and will be branded by the restaurant, and not DBS. Old Tea Hut - DBS's trial partner for this service - offers through the app all mind-boggling permutations behind a cup of coffee or tea in Singapore. So customers can ask for less sugar or replace condensed milk with evaporated milk in their coffee, as they do with usual orders now.

Based on Old Tea Hut's figures, about three hours are spent daily on processing transactions at each of its four outlets. The bank observed that while several restaurants have adopted the use of iPads, the apps lack a payment function. This situation slows down the turnover rate.

The F&B industry was valued at some S$6 billion last year by Euromonitor International; this is expected to grow to S$7.2 billion by 2018. But it is a competitive one: Nearly half of all cafes and coffee houses set up in 2011 have folded, DBS said, citing data from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

An earlier version of the story cited the example of One Tea Hut. It should be Old Tea Hut.