MONCTON – Andrew Morrison has turned an uncomfortable late-night McDonald’s drive-thru experience into a startup.
Months ago, the Mount Allison University aviation student had to have his car window open for some time on a rainy night. First, as he waited to make an order, and second, to pay and get his food.
“My clothes were wet. It was just so uncomfortable,” he said.
Over time, he noticed that when there’s higher than expected customer demand at drive-thrus and not enough staff to manage orders, the simple process of ordering can become long and stressful for both the worker and customer. That’s when the idea bulb lit up.
“Something had to change once I heard a manager yelling at a staff member because the payments were taking too long,” he said. “That is why I started CarPay.”
The mobile payment app allows users to make purchases directly from inside the car when they would otherwise have to wait in a line-up, open their window, or get out of their car to pay.
While McDonald’s app has an online order and drive-thru pick-up functionality, customers still have to roll their window down to tell the speaker-post their order number, something CarPay seeks to eliminate as well. CarPay would also work with various restaurants and gas stations so customers won’t need separate apps for each brand.
“It makes sense that our next step in technological evolution in terms of payment is really to go into the infrastructure that’s there, rather than a personal wallet,” he said.
Morrison and his business partner Guyverson Jr. Vernous, who is studying in Toronto, will target gas stations first, followed by drive-thrus.
Customers can connect the app from their phone to their car via Bluetooth and make orders and/or payments through the car’s system, Morrison said. If the car doesn’t have Bluetooth, app users can have their phone mounted and use CarPay on their phones.
Morrison said the car version is purposefully designed to look minimal because although the car would be stopped, “we don’t want to take all the attention away from drivers.”
The free app is currently still in beta testing phase for both iOS and Android, but Morrison and Vernous plan to launch it on Google and Apple app stores in the first week of April. Testing is expected to start at an Irving gas station in Sackville the first half of this year. Then, Morrison and Vernous plan to launch at gas stations in Toronto and the rest of the Maritime provinces.
CarPay hopes to eliminate the need to pay at the pump or leave the car to pay in-store, which limits the amount a consumer needs to be outside in harsh weather, makes payment faster, and reduce the amount companies need to spend for pay-at-the-pump services.
Once they have a good user base, CarPay will release an updated version of the app to allow users to order and make purchases in drive-thrus. Eventually, they want to cover North America and Europe.
The hope is this will cut the time consumers take to make an order and the times they need to roll down their window and allow workers to focus on preparing the food. Morrison said just paying from the car would take 45 seconds away from each transaction.
The merchants won’t need to have the app.
“Everything’s done through our back end. [Merchants] have their own access to what’s going on at their location,” he said.
The app also includes a payment sharing element, so users can share gas money or pitch in for food.
CarPay will generate revenue through service fees from merchants and ads that are specific to a user’s location, triggered only when the vehicle has stopped.
As a student entrepreneur, Morrison said he appreciates the help he’s gotten from Venn Innovation in connecting him with potential clients, and his professors in University and various small business associations in New Brunswick that have given advice.
“That really broadens your mind on what you’re doing.”