I built a small QR payments app

My friend was organising a home cafe and asked if I could help out at a bar. Of course I had to build an app for this.

This is where I made cocktails for the first time in my life.

As we were chatting about how the cafe would work, we realised there’s no easy way to accept card payments.

And so the idea was born to build a tiny webapp to accept Apple/Google Pay.

This is how it looked like. We wanted to make it super simple to use. Scan the QR code on the bar counter and choose products yourself.

One Limoncello cocktail. One Original American Lemonade. Then you tapped Pay which took you to Stripe for Apple/Google payment.

Simple and scrappy. Not sure what’s happening with the icon in the middle.

Everyone loved it

I thought that maybe a few people would use it but the results surprised me a lot. What was most interesting was that everyone who used it said how cool it was!

Most people had Apple Pay and it was fully configured on their phones. There were a few people who had to add their billing address but that was very simple to do and they did it while I was making their cocktail (I think they hadn’t used Apple Pay for web purchases before?)

And yes, there was ONE person who actually entered card details because Apple Pay was not configured. But she didn’t have cash and she really wanted my Limoncello.

It seemed what people liked the most was that they could service themselves. They could pick products and pay for them, all from their phone.

And then this is what happened. I saw the same faces again and again who were coming back, scanning the QR, paying for the beer, showing me the payment confirmation and just taking the beer from the ice bath outside the line.

My app quickly became a self-service station. Scan the QR, pay with Apple/Google and take the beer.

For the cocktails you still had to stand in line as I actually had to make them. And I made them a lot.

Coding in the car

As my friend was donating all the proceeds from the home cafe to the Children’s Foundation I had also added an additional field where people could leave donations while they were buying drinks from the bar.

I saw many using it. They tapped a €4 beer and added €5 for the extra donation.

Coding in my car.

But then my friend took the microphone and told everyone that they can use the QR payment app to leave donations to the kids and people started trying that but it didn’t work.

It turned out that you HAD to choose a product and THEN you could use the donation box. But this needed to change as people really wanted to give money to kids without buying my Limoncello.

So, of course I went to my car and started coding. It took me five minutes and then I ran back to my friend who picked up the microphone again and told everyone that it’s fixed.

Later I saw from my database that people were giving hundreds of euros like this. Someone gave €50. Someone else €20. A lot of €5 donations.

What’s next?

I mentioned this to my other friend and he also started smiling and said how cool the idea was. He’s running this farm and he will offer pony rides at the fair next weekend and he would also like to accept QR payments in addition to cash.

So I created a QR payment page for him too where I added two products. Pony ride and 3 carrots. Let’s see how it goes.

Pay for pony rides and carrots with your phone.

But there’s probably no money in it

The total revenue for the bar was €4,099 out of which €1,529 (37%) was paid via QR and €2,570 (63%) in cash. Stripe took 1.5% + €0.25 per transaction.

The feedback was really great but my main concern is how to make money in addition to the already high payment processing.

One other friend was also organising a home cafe but went with cash only because of the payment fees.

Overall it was a great experience. I was able to get out of my home and close my laptop for most of the day and I could have fun making cocktails for strangers. We also gathered money for the Children’s Foundation and that was very cool too.

Not every “success” has to be about building a profitable startup.

I'm a software engineer from Europe on a mission to build profitable online startups. Join me for lessons and stories!