The Future of Restaurant Payment Technology

By: Ellen Cunningham

4 Minute Read

Jun 06, 2018

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With the recent introduction of EMV chip cards and a neverending stream of contactless payment options from Samsung Pay to Chase Pay, the payments world is changing.

What can businesses - specifically restaurants - expect?

Chip cards aren’t going anywhere, but contactless has a less certain future. For restaurants, expect advances to automation and an increase in tableside payments.

Chip Cards Are Here to Stay

The transition from magnetic stripe to chip cards in the US has been rocky, to say the least.

At the time of this writing, we’re about a year and a half past the liability shift set by the card brands for merchants to upgrade their terminals. Much of the initial customer grumbling has subsided as staff and cardholders alike have adjusted to the change.

Yet many businesses still have not purchased chip-capable terminals.

As time goes on, support for non-chip terminals will be phased out, and chip-capable terminals will be the only option.

For restaurants, a big complication regarding tipping has been rectified by many processors and terminals. When first rolled out in the US, chip cards meant a change in the tipping process. Instead of permitting a tip after the card had been run, cardholders would have to add the tip before the card was run or while it was still in the machine.

Neither diners nor merchants liked this method, and some processors responded by enabling a “tip adjust” feature to preserve the old tipping style. If you’re looking to upgrade to EMV-capable equipment, some restaurant management platforms offer convenient tablet-based mobile POS systems with tip adjust.

Free Resource: The Definitive Guide to Restaurant POS Systems + POS Comparison Tool

Contactless Pay Has a Murky Future in Restaurants

While contactless (NFC, or near field communication) payments are very popular overseas, they’ve only garnered lukewarm support here in the US.

Payments industry newsletter Digital Transactions published an article detailing mobile wallet growth internationally, but noted that the growth for the biggest players here in the US has been “flat at best.” Researchers cite consumer confusion stemming from a flood of digital wallets introduced all at once; offerings include Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Chase Pay, Google Wallet, and others.

Fortunately, for business owners, choosing to accept contactless doesn’t have to be a big decision. Many EMV-capable credit card terminals also include contactless options, so if you’re not sure if NFC will catch on - but want to be prepared in case it does - you can simply choose a machine that supports all payment types.

If you do get a customer that wants to use their digital wallet, you can accept it without needing a completely separate machine.

Advances to Restaurant Automation

While self-order kiosks may not outnumber manned cash register just yet, major fast food and quick-serve chains are embracing kiosks.

Touchscreen systems allow customers to place their order and even customize menu items to their liking. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Protein Bar, and Panera are leading the way with kiosks, and over time, we can expect the technology to get better and the costs to get lower. Fortune reported that kiosks can cost several thousands of dollars to install, making them cost prohibitive for some smaller operations.

However, like VCRs, computers, and other technology - we believe prices for restaurant kiosks will go down over time.

Kiosks can eliminate the need for an extra cashier in the ordering process. Advanced models will allow for ordering, payment, and receipt printing right from the machine with no need for a cashier at every single station. As with self-checkouts in grocery stores, it may be worthwhile to assign an employee to the kiosk cluster to assist with any customer questions or machine glitches; however, you’ll generally be able to utilize one employee at a time for that role instead of scheduling multiple cashiers.

Tableside Payments

For restaurants, the name of the game is convenience for customers and prompt service for everything from drink refills to bringing the check. The rise of tablet restaurant POS solutions with built-in payment processing coincides perfectly with these goals, and more restaurants are noticing.

Tablets allow servers to place orders directly from the table and accept payment without having to take the customer’s card to a different location for processing. Depending on your restaurant and your clientele’s preferences, you could either provide tablets to servers to carry or install stationary tablets directly at the table.

The Future of Restaurant Technology

Technology changes quickly, but you can be prepared by choosing a flexible solution with the most current tech for your needs.

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