Paying at the table will grow through 2017

According to the U.S. Payments forum, over 600 million EMV-enabled cards had been issued as of March 2017. MasterCard and Visa are estimating that there are around 2 million point-of-sale (POS) systems in the U.S. that can accept payments with chip cards. However, research suggests that there still needs to be another 15 million POS terminals upgraded to be able to accept chip card payments. After almost two years after the EMV liability date, that is a staggering number of terminals that are not yet compliant.

There is a silver lining for restaurants

The positive aspect here, at least for restaurants and fast food places, is that mobile technology could catch on over the next few years, meaning businesses could take the checkout to the table, instead of just the bill. Pay-at-the-table devices, which can accept any form of payment method, from cards to mobile wallets and mobile payment-enabled accessories, are expected to be seen in more restaurants in the U.S. over the course of this year, with a bigger increase in 2018.

Tableside payments are big in Europe

In other countries, especially Europe, pay-at-the-table has been the latest big thing for the last two years, and now it is time for American restaurants to catch up. Historically, restaurants are notoriously slow at embracing modern technology. But that could be due to the fact that they have not previously been offered a solution that would benefit them enough to want to make the change. Any advance in technology has to be so drastically beneficial to make the change – and the resulting disruptions – worthwhile.

Tableside tech is not as costly as expected

One of the current challenges with adopting pay-at-the-table devices is the cost of the hardware required. But with the advances in technology, and the ability to now use any mobile device as a mobile POS terminal, could change the way restaurants think about customer experiences. Paying the bill without leaving your seat is the next step in the excellent customer experience restaurant-goers want. And there are other challenges of the idea in American society as well. America is a “tipping” society, and it is generally considered awkward to be giving the tip in front of the server. Tip too much, and you are too lavish or boastful. Tip too little and you will be seen as stingy, and no one wants to be seen that way, even if the service was not up to the standard expected.

Tableside solutions are the key

Pay-at-the-table solutions can put an end to that by incorporating the tip into the amount being processed, without the server knowing how much you actually paid. And the system will refuse to accept anything less than the full amount of the bill, so the server with the POS terminal does not need to worry about being scrimped on the bill.

Coverage will be costly is the belief

Another issue is the number of mobile POS terminals that would be needed to cover a normal restaurant, when, for example, several customers want to pay at the same time. Restaurateurs would not want to keep any of them waiting, so would need to have multiple devices. And it can take several months to certify each individual POS terminal with the required processor certification.

However, there is an answer for this too. Middleware solutions can be adopted to allow the certification of just one processor, or a main terminal, with mobile devices used as attached terminals that obtain their certification direct from the main processor. Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) systems can now be integrated into almost any mobile device, with an attachment that links to the speaker and charging ports. This allows the server to scan the card or accept the mobile payment, without the business forking out for multiple POS terminals, at a huge expense. However, while this technology makes it more cost effective to adopt pay-at-the-table services, merchants still want to see a fast return on investments.

This allows the server to scan the card or accept the mobile payment, without the business forking out for multiple POS terminals, at a huge expense. However, while this technology makes it more cost effective to adopt pay-at-the-table services, merchants still want to see a fast return on investments.

Paying at the table has multiple benefits

Making more money

Using the system of tableside payments has been proven to increase sales, according to Tom Marcellino, a restaurant owner in Maine. He discovered that the use of tableside payments actually increased his profits by around 12-14 percent. Moreover, it increased his staff efficiency by shaving around 15-30 minutes per table off the normal dining time, allowing him to serve more customers over the course of the day.


With all tableside devices needing to be EMV-ready, the security that comes with the chip and PIN system can be used in the tableside option as well. This reduces the risk of the customer becoming a victim of fraud, and tokenization and point-to-point encryption are also being integrated into most tableside solutions to add greater security. PIN pad services in POS systems are expected to be adopted more widely in the future, as this change in the way payments are made in the U.S. is critical in enhancing payment data security in the near future.

Customer enjoyment

In a survey produced by the National Research Association, around 79 percent of restaurant customers said they thought that the advances in technology make payments more convenient, and improve the customer experience. Additionally, 70 percent agreed that technology has improved the speed of service and order accuracy. With customers wanting more convenience and better service, tableside payments are definitely the next step forward in the mind of the consumer.

While it is believed that more restaurants will soon adopt tableside payment solutions, mass adoption of this technology is still 2-5 years away due to the cost and the change in functionality, according to Russell Boone, senior manager for payments company, Vantiv. “The technology has a little bit of a ways to go, but I think the next 12 to 18 months is where it’s going to be more ubiquitous,” he said in a recent interview with Mobile Payments Today at the NRA show.

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