Removing the drag from tableside payment growth in the US

 In Featured

As U.S. restaurant operators look to comply with EMV standards, there is a shift towards the European model of bringing the payment device to the table in the form of a tableside POS or card reader. This change comes as customer payment preferences are changing towards payments that require some form of security step, such as finger-print ID.

But does tableside payment in this form really meet the demands of the modern American consumer? The U.S. public expects seamless interactions. Studies show that 56% of consumers are willing to share data to receive a faster and more convenient service, while 84% say a quick and efficient service is important in judging dining experiences.

Dead time for operators and guests

Time spent setting up and processing payments at the tableside is both dead time for the operator, and frustrating from the guest-perspective. Indeed, 69% of restaurant-goers find waiting for the check the most frustrating part of eating out, which is understandable when you take into account that, on average, it takes 12 minutes from asking for the check to paying it.

The harsh reality is that tableside POS payment does little to reduce this waiting time, as it still requires most of the steps previously required for a traditional card payment. The server brings your check to the table, comes back later to see that you want to pay by card, goes to get a tableside POS device, and then brings it to the table for you to enter your PIN, and to add the tip, of course using tableside POS can even create additional delays if servers have limited access to payment devices and have to wait for colleagues to finish using them.

Another consideration is tipping culture. With more card payments being taken at the table in the U.S., many guests are uncomfortable with the presumption implied by displaying an option to enter a tip, in addition to having the server standing over them while they punch in their chosen percentage.

To meet consumer demand, restaurants need to offer a range of tableside payment options to suit their guests’ preferences. Cash is still the fastest way to exit a restaurant, but we know what is happening to cash. And, if the goal is to improve speed and efficiency of card payments, there is still a significant amount of drag in a tableside POS model that requires a server bringing a card machine to the table.

Smartphone payment is key

Clearly, offering guests an option to pay quickly, from their table and in their own time, is highly desirable. And the fastest route to achieving this is via their smartphone.

An estimated 31% of iPhone users made a purchase using Apple Pay in the 2018, while 47% of consumers expect to be using mobile payment and digital wallets by 2020. The rise seen in mobile payments and digital wallets is not only attributed to the increased safety that biometric authentication provides. It also comes as society is beginning to expect seamless, one-click or voice activated payments – just see the success of Amazon, the rapid growth in the Internet of Things, and the rise of contactless payments in Europe, where one in every two transactions are now tap to pay.

But, if you still have to wait for a server to bring bring the tableside POS device to the table to take your contactless phone payment, you aren’t really saving any time at all.

And, while it works well in certain cases, the traditional mobile app model is relatively high friction – requiring you to download an app and often to register your details for an account, when most of the time you just want to do something quick and simple, like ordering and paying for a meal. In many cases, customers will simply not bother to download an app to avoid the hassle of downloading yet another app and cluttering up their phone even further.

Turn the table into a payment terminal

Recent technology developments provide the ability to remove friction from this scenario by allowing guests to use their own mobile devices to pay from their table, but, crucially, with no apps required. By using web app technology and placing a small NFC chip or QR code on to the surface any table can be turned into a contactless payment device.

Guests can check-in at their table by tapping their smartphone on an NFC tag or scanning a QR code, using the phone’s native capabilities (again, no downloads required). This automatically connects the customer’s phone to the restaurant point of sale and brings up a digital version of their check on a secure web page, where they can review their bill, split it, add a tip and pay.

Integrating this technology with the point of sale, payment provider and the table management system creates a seamless experience that requires no input from wait staff. Simplicity is key. By enabling a contactless phone payment at table, the time from check-in to payment can take well under a minute.

Improve the guest experience … and more …

This approach to tableside payment can benefit restaurant operators in several areas. The most obvious is the improved guest experience that comes from reducing the time diners spend waiting to pay. Eliminating the dead time associated with serving staff going back and forth between table and the POS also frees up staff to focU.S. on providing a higher level of customer service. And, by allowing guests to tip privately on their own phone, operators can remove the discomfort they may feel when asked to enter their tip on a tableside POS.

Allowing guests to use their own mobile devices reduces the need to provide multiple tableside POS devices, which means lower hardware costs for operators. This approach can also help reduce instances of “dine and dash”, where guests leave without paying due to the length of time it takes to get the check from the server, or because they simply forget. Mobile pay at table addresses both of these issues by giving guests the flexibility to pay whenever they are ready, and by offering a visual reminder for guests to pay in the form of the QR code/NFC tag on the table.

By taking advantage of the standard capabilities of the modern smartphone, restaurant operators now have the opportunity to go a step beyond tableside POS and eliminate the drag associated with paying the check.

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