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What Restaurants Need To Know About Pay-At-The-Table

In an EMV world, it’s best practice for cards to never leave the customer’s possession during a transaction. In the U.S., an additional driver for bringing payment to the table is mobile payment solutions such as Apple Pay, which require either a fingerprint ID or PIN. The payment method can’t come to the POS – customers aren’t going to turn over their PIN or smartphone – so the POS has to come to the customer.
There are multiple benefits for implementing tableside payment at restaurants. Not only does bringing the point of sale to the customer help to boost table turns and revenue, it also helps to protect customer cardholder data, which is a major concern for merchants. Here, Greg Burch, vice president of strategic initiatives U.S. for Ingenico Group, highlights some of the perks and breaks down a few best practices.
Paybacks from tableside payment
Higher table turns. Consider a typical payment transaction with a magnetic stripe card: a server drops a check at the table in a billfold, and leaves. The customer retrieves their card and leaves it in the billfold, then waits for the server to return. Sometimes that happens a minute later, and sometimes it’s 10 or more minutes later.  Then the customer waits again for their receipt. Most restaurants measure table turns closely, and even small increases can contribute to profitability. Moving from three to four table turns per shift can increase revenue by 20-25 percent.
Less waiting for customers, higher tips for servers. Cutting down that wait time by bringing the payment device to the table not only leads to more table turns and increased face-time, but also higher customer satisfaction. The result is better tips for servers. We witnessed this firsthand in Canada, where Pay-at-the-Table became the standard shortly after that country’s EMV migration in 2010.
Reduced chargebacks. Businesses that do not upgrade their payment technology to accept EMV chip cards are putting themselves at risk of chargebacks due to credit card fraud. Major acquirers have reported that chargebacks have been on the rise since the October 2015 liability shift, with restaurants being one of the major areas affected. This is essentially a trickle-down effect: as more merchants move to EMV, fraud moves to areas that have been slower adopters. Even a small increase in chargebacks and card fraud can be potentially devastating to a small business.
Reductions in identity theft. Card skimming by servers has been known to occur in the hospitality industry, where cards typically leave consumers’ sight for several minutes. Servers who are part of fraud rings can wear discreet card skimmers on their belt loops and collect card data from hundreds of customers in a week. Five hundred skimmed cards can be sold on the black market for $1500 or more – significantly boosting a server’s annual income. Pay-at-the-table eliminates that possibility by keeping cards out of servers’ possession.
8 Best practices for rolling out pay-at-the-table  
There is no question that pay-at-the-table is becoming a major factor in the market, with some – ipredicting it to be the predominant payment method throughout the hospitality industry by the end of 2016. For those thinking of rolling out pay-at-the-table, here are a few tips for a smooth and successful implementation.
  1. Train servers not only to use the pay-at-the-table technology, but also to inform customers why it’s being implemented – chiefly, to keep their card data secure.
  1. Determine whether you should use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. While both are secure, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi setups each have their own pros and cons. Bluetooth is great for smaller establishments that want a turnkey solution securely configured out of the box. Bluetooth terminals are pre-configured to communicate wirelessly with a base station at a range of 300ft. The base, in turn, is then connected to a wired Internet connection. Larger establishments typically opt for Wi-Fi terminals which can support their larger footprint by roaming across multiple access points and leveraging reliable, wireless LAN networks already in place.
  1. Be sure to offer the ability to split the check at the table. It’s common for groups of diners to ask to split the check and pay using more than one card. Make sure the pay-at-the-table technology you implement supports this feature.
  1. Make it easy for customers to calculate and leave tips via the device, since few people carry cash anymore. The terminal can simplify tipping by offering suggested tip amounts or percentages.
  1. Be sure the device you choose can process mag stripe as well as EMV and NFC transactions. There is so much focus on new payment technologies – don’t forget about mag stripe cards. An Ingenico Group survey found that 40 percent of consumers had not yet received an EMV card, and half of consumers who had received an EMV card had still not used it. Mag stripe cards are still very common.
  1. Check to make sure the device you choose is certified for both contact and contactless. EMV contactless quickly follows EMV rollouts, usually within a year. So make sure the pay-at-table devices you choose support both EMV contact and contactless, or you’ll likely need to upgrade very quickly.
  1. Make sure device warranty is at least three years. In restaurants and bars, things get sticky. Typically, pay-at-the-table devices last three to five years. If your operation is extremely high volume or has an outdoor serving area, your device life expectancy will be lower. Look for a good warranty, and be vigilant about using the wipes and cleaning cards your vendor provides.
  1. Consider how you should size your pay-at-the-table initiative? A small operation will likely need two to three pay-at-the-table devices. Larger operations may need dozens of devices. Most restaurants report that pay-at-the-table systems pay for themselves within a year, due to benefits such as increased table turns.
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