How to Unlock the Power of the Restaurant Receipt

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Here's how to optimize your digital and paper receipts to help you keep guests coming back.

The age-old question “would you like a receipt?” is slowly being replaced by “do you want your receipt via email, text, or printed?”

Digital receipts are, without a doubt, the future. According to our 2019 Restaurant Success Report, even though 50% of guests still prefer to receive paper receipts, 36% are already opting for digital receipts; the last 14% prefer no receipt at all. 

In response, 64% of restaurants offered email receipts, and 55% offered text receipts in 2019. This number, as well as the number of guests that opt for digital receipts, is expected to keep growing as phones continue to be a bigger and bigger part of our lives and environmental awareness becomes more popular. 

The faded little pieces of paper found in your winter jacket pocket are certainly going out of style. While 50% of customers still want paper receipts, it’s worth learning how to make any type of receipt work for you because both digital and paper receipts are powerful marketing tools that often go overlooked.

Why you should switch to digital receipts

Handheld POS systems enable the use of digital receipts, which have a host of benefits. These receipts can be sent to customers via email or text, and appeal to environmentally conscious customers because of reduced paper waste.

According to Safety Culture, 250 million gallons of oil, 10 million trees, 1 billion gallons of water are used to make receipts in the U.S. each year. Not only does switching to digital receipts reduce a restaurant’s carbon footprint, but it can also cut down on costs for managers who often spend money on reams of paper that ultimately end up in the garbage.

Brian Hunt, of Via 313, was spending $50-60 per week on paper and switching to a kitchen display system and digital receipts eliminated that cost — that’s almost $3,000. 

How to do more with digital receipts

Gather guest feedback 

25% of restaurants use a rating scale in their digital receipts, like a simple “thumbs-up, thumbs-down” rating about the guest’s experience at the restaurant, or via a “rate your experience on a scale of 1-10” which provides the restaurant with information about your customer NPS

Toast’s Guest Feedback feature prompts guests to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down while they’re paying on a handheld terminal, and if a thumbs-down is clicked, the on-duty manager will get a text alerting them of it, so they can go fix any issues before the guest leaves the restaurant (and goes home to leave a review). 

Build your loyalty program 

Regardless of whether receipts are delivered through email or text message, restaurants are able to capture important contact information via digital receipts that can be used to increase brand loyalty and create returning customers.

For example, customers can be prompted to enroll in a loyalty or rewards program right at the point of sale when choosing their receipt delivery method. Rewards programs can be linked to an existing credit card, phone number, or email, so when future payments are made by that customer, points will be added to their account automatically. Once loyal customers have racked up a certain number of points, they’ll be offered exclusive deals, coupons, and perks. 

Capture emails and customer info

Through digital receipts, restaurateurs are able to open consistent lines of communication with guests by obtaining and saving their email or phone numbers. Managers can send customer satisfaction surveys to collect real-time feedback, encourage diners to check out your social media pages, include asks for the guests to leave a review and keep guests up to date on upcoming promotions, menu changes, and limited-time offers. 

Basically, digital receipts have opened a new guest engagement and marketing channel for restaurants. 

The possibilities are endless and allow restaurant owners to keep in touch with diners, improve the experience based on their feedback, and ensure they come back again.

Plug a promotion 

Digital receipts can be used to let guests know about ongoing promotions, coupons, and announcements. 

For example, if a restaurant is running an upcoming holiday promotion or a buy-two-get-one-free deal, they can include this information at the bottom of digital receipts so customers know the promotion is coming.

Link to online ordering

Want to let your customers know that you offer online ordering? Include a link in your digital receipts.

It can also help your guests go to the online ordering form on your website, and not to a third-party delivery site that charges you fees. According to Toast’s 2019 Restaurant Success Report, 51% of respondents surveyed made an online order directly from a restaurant’s website in the past month. 

You can also provide a small discount for those who go to your online ordering site via their emailed receipt.

Increase tips for your servers

By having a suggested gratuity page in your checkout process, you can provide 18%, 20% and 22% options for the tip, which is a win-win: guests don’t have to scramble to do the quick math, and since guests are incentivized to choose one of the options you provide, servers will end up with more tips at the end of every shift. 

How to make paper receipts work for you, too

In the short term, some of your customers will still want a paper receipt instead of a digital one — and that doesn’t mean that you should skip out on marketing to them through their receipts. Toast restaurant POS system allows you to customize your printed receipts so you can make the most of them. 

To make the most of your printed receipts, there are two very helpful types of free tech you should know about: link shortening tools like, and QR codes, which are printable barcodes that a guest can scan with their smartphone camera and then they get taken to your website, or Yelp page, or whatever else you link. 

The Restaurant POS Comparison Tool
A free, customizable Restaurant POS Comparison Tool to research and compare point of sale systems in one Excel spreadsheet or editable PDF.

Here are three ways you can morph your restaurant’s paper receipts into a marketing channel or revenue-generating tool:

Receipt as an event invitation

You can promote upcoming events on your printed receipts: Write a very short sentence with the details of the event at the bottom or top of the receipt, along the lines of “We hope to see you again soon at our upcoming open mic night on [insert time and date]”. You can also include a short link or QR code that leads the guest to your event’s Facebook page. 

Receipt as a comment card

One of the best things that you can do with a printed receipt asks for feedback — you’ve definitely seen this before, where it says “Tell us how we did!” at the bottom of the receipt. In fact, according to Toast’s 2019 Success Report, 31% of restaurants ask for feedback on their printed receipts. 

You can use a rating system printed on the bill itself, like “How was your experience today? Circle 1 2 3 4 5” and leave space for feedback, or you can add a short link or QR code that leads to your Yelp page on the customer copy of the receipt. 

Receipt as coupon

Encourage your guests to hold onto their receipts by setting up a limited-time promotion where a guest who comes back with their receipt from last time gets 10% off. 

Don’t let your receipts’ potential end up in the garbage

Your receipts — digital, print, and otherwise — hold so much potential for growing customer loyalty. Try out the above methods at a time, and find what works for your customers.

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