How to Choose the Best Pay-at-the-Table Solution

Pay-at-the-table solutions can save guests frustration, ensure more secure credit-card transactions, free up servers’ time, and generally improve the dining experience for everyone involved.
a close up of a person using a cell phone

Narrowing Down the Field of Contactless Solutions?

Anyone who has ever dined in a restaurant has likely had the frustrating experience of finishing a wonderful meal and then having to wait, and wait, and wait for the server to bring the bill. And then wait some more while the same server runs the credit card through the POS system only to return with another slip of paper. Yes, leaving cash is an option, but these days only around 10% of restaurant guests pay with cash.

And anyone who manages a restaurant staff knows that these days, finding ways to increase efficiencies is key to keeping the doors open.

Bottom line: It’s time to rethink how the whole payment process works in restaurants -- from quick service to fine dining -- and the many new pay-at-the-table options should thrill restaurant operators. Pay-at-the-table solutions can save guests frustration, ensure more secure credit-card transactions, free up servers’ time, and generally improve the dining experience for everyone involved. What’s more, these new systems can provide valuable data insights for operators, helping them make more efficient decisions that ultimately increase revenues. Truly a win-win.

If you’ve decided it’s time to investigate a new payment system, you probably have questions. There are many factors to consider. Here are some of the most important questions to ask before making this investment:

  1. Does it work with Apple Pay or Google Pay? Some pay-at-the-table systems accept Apple Pay and Google Pay, but not all do. If this function is important for your customer base, you’ll want a system that accommodates digital wallets.
  2. Does it allow for split checks? Some systems allow for split checks and some don’t. This is an important consideration for certain restaurants because if the system you choose doesn’t accommodate splitting, the server must divide checks by returning to the restaurant’s POS -- which means little to no time and effort is saved.
  3. Does the system provide digital receipts? Most pay-at-the-table systems provide either a dynamic receipt (itemized) or static (total amount) receipt. If providing a dynamic receipt is important to your customers, make sure the system you choose allows this option.

    [38% of customers say the ability to pay via their mobile device is an important or very important feature when selecting a restaurant, according to HT's 2021 Customer Engagement Technology Study]
  4. What is the cost for set up and ongoing operation? Most systems have two costs. First is the set up which can range from $0 to $5-10K, depending on the equipment required and programming. The second cost is the monthly subscription, which can range from $10 a month to $200 a month.
  5. How secure is the system? Europay, MasterCard, Visa (EMV), and point-to-point encryption (P2PE) are the two technologies that make credit/debit card transactions more secure. The good news: payment data is secure for most of these systems. The real question to ask potential pay-at-the-table provider is: “Does the system satisfy payment compliance?” Today only about 40% of merchants choose to protect themselves from fraud, largely because they say fraud is not a major problem. However, the credit card companies are now adding monthly penalties of up to 0.62% per transaction which, when added to the 2% credit card processing fee adds up quickly. Some pay-at-the-table systems already include payment compliance, at no extra charge,  so you should definitely look for one in this category.
  6. How easy is the system to get up and running? It can take between ten minutes and two months to get a pay-at-the-table system set up. There are systems that require little more than a proprietary ‘Cord’ hooked up between the terminal/station and to the printer  paired with your WIFI and you’re on your way. Then there are systems that require the re-coding of existing POS systems and installing proprietary chip readers. And then there are really complicated systems that require you to “rip and replace,” everything. This last category is the most expensive system to install and involves retraining staff as well. 
  7. Does the system require compatibility with a certain POS system or is it agnostic? Some systems are compatible with any POS and require little more than attaching a new Cord to the printer (as mentioned above) and there is no need to change what you already have. Others require an entirely new set up from cable to display to handheld device.
  8. How much does the system improve efficiency? Offering pay-at-the-table should save waitstaff two round trips to the central POS which could shave 10-30 minutes off of each diner’s time at the table. Ultimately contactless payment systems make it possible to turn tables more quickly.
a man smiling for the camera
Dickson Chu is CEO of Copper.

I hope this gives you an idea of all the ways pay-at-the-table can improve restaurant operations and the questions to ask before you invest in a new system. 


About the Author

Dickson Chu is CEO of Copper, a contactless payment processing system for the Food and Beverage industry.