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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.

DISCLAIMER: This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations. You should contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.

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

Digital receipts have burst onto the scene along with their digital restaurant menu counterparts. Guest-centric, technology-powered service models — such as Toast’s New Steps of Service — are eliminating the need for paper receipts. 

As self-service and table-side ordering increase in popularity, the need, let alone the opportunity, to get a paper receipt is replaced with more efficient, digital restaurant receipts.

Whether you're interested in digital or paper receipts, it’s important to think about how you can tap into their powerful potential as marketing tools.

What is a digital receipt?

Before we jump into the nitty gritty, let’s cover the basics.

A digital receipt is a paperless option that summarizes your restaurant bill and payment method. Rather than receiving a printed, paper receipt after your meal, a digital receipt allows you to receive this information on your phone via text or as an email receipt to your inbox. Just like a printed receipt, digital receipts outline the total amount spent as well as the subtotal and gratuity amounts individually.

Why your restaurant should switch to digital receipts

Handheld POS systems, such as the Toast Go® 2, 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 through reduced paper waste.

According to Safety Culture, 250 million gallons of oil, 10 million trees, and one 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, but switching to a kitchen display system and digital receipts eliminated that cost — providing his restaurant with almost $3,000 in savings a year.

Not only can digital receipts help your restaurant save money on paper, but they’ll also reduce your need for related equipment such as receipt holders/receipt spikes and check presenters. Plus, digital receipts allow your restaurant to deal with less clutter.

Overall, digital receipts can help your restaurant save money and be more efficient.

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How to do more with digital receipts

There are more benefits to digital receipts than cost-savings and eco-friendliness, though. Digital restaurant receipts allow you to learn more about your guests. Plus, their editable nature lets you easily update them with new language and promotions. Let’s dive into some of the ways you can use digital receipts to your advantage.

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. 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). 

In addition to implementing a rating system during the payment process, your restaurant can also add a link to your digital receipts to request that guests leave a review online. It’s a great and easy way to gather reviews and learn from the feedback your guests offer so you can keep improving on the dining experience.

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. 

Toast Loyalty
Toast Loyalty is a simple, integrated rewards program that restaurant owners can use to increase guest frequency.

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 the restaurant’s 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 or share important updates

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.

Blackbird Cafe in Burlington, MA uses its digital receipts to let guests know that they will soon be offering delivery. It’s a great way to share information with guests and get them excited about future meals.

Screenshot of a digital receipt from Blackbird Cafe via Toast POS. The receipt shows the current loyalty points balance, points to the next reward, and a customized message stating that "delivery is coming soon!"

Link to your online ordering platform

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 rather than a third-party delivery site that charges you fees. According to a report from QSR Magazine, over 5 percent of adults say purchasing takeout or delivery food is “essential to the way they live.”

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

Customize your receipts for events

One unique way of using digital receipts is to congratulate the newlyweds or parents-to-be with a custom message during events hosted at your restaurant. Jeremiah Wallis, the Sales Director at Lakewood Brewing Co., shared how they used digital receipts to deliver a great guest experience in their taproom:

I love that I can easily change the message at the bottom of receipts. It’s a chance to thank people for their business. We did a wedding reception, for example, and wrote a congratulatory note on the receipts processed that night. Toast really lets us personalize the whole process.

Increase tips for your servers

By having a suggested gratuity page in your checkout process, you can configure suggested tip amounts to display on your receipts — both digital and printed. Suggested tip amounts are 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. 

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Tip distribution can be a lot easier. Here's how.

You must have Javascript enabled in order to submit forms on our website. If you'd like to contact Toast please call us at:

(857) 301-6002
First and Last Name is required
Phone Number is required
Restaurant Name is required
What is your role? is required
What best describes your restaurant type? is required
Yes, I’d like a demo of Toast, a restaurant technology platform.
Yes, I'd like a demo of Toast is required
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We’ll handle your info according to our privacy statement.

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’s restaurant POS system allows you to customize your printed receipts so you can make the most of them, too. 

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 bit.ly, and QR codes, which are printable barcodes that a guest can scan with their smartphone camera that take them to your website, Yelp page, or whatever else you link. 

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 or registration. 

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 restaurant receipts’ potential end up in the garbage

Your receipts — digital, print, and otherwise — hold so much potential for growing customer loyalty and staying in touch with guests. Try out the above methods and find what works best for your customers.

Interest in learning more about Toast? Schedule a free demo to learn how you can take your restaurant technology to the next level.

Are you already using Toast in your restaurant? Learn how to configure your digital receipts on Toast Central.

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