Digital payments are taking the restaurant industry by storm. You may have already heard about – and maybe even used – some of the latest advances in your culinary explorations, but technology changes so rapidly that it can be hard to keep up. Let’s take a look at the current trends in digital payments for the restaurant industry.
Why Are Digital Payments Taking Off?
Before we dive in, let’s consider why digital payments are becoming so popular. You may have eaten at a restaurant that places mobile kiosks on each table which allow you to order appetizers and drink refills, play games like trivia, and even pay your bill. This enables the diner to have much more control over their experience and frees up the wait staff to attend to other issues more promptly. Everyone is pressed for time, and being able to finish your meal and close out the check without waiting for a busy server to come by and drop off the bill can be the difference between getting back to work on time and having to choose fast food instead.
Smartphone-based payments are also taking off since we live in an era where customers are much more likely to accidentally leave their wallet at home than their phone. The ability to pay from an app or other mobile solution keeps the meal flowing even if your wallet has pulled a disappearing act. Companies like Starbucks have seen great success with their app-based payment system. The app is simple to use, makes payments fast and easy, and supports additional features like special discounts, pre-ordering, and a rewards program.
The Other Side of the Story
If you’re considering adding a digital payments solution to your restaurant, be prepared for a bit of a rocky adoption period. While some customers will love the option to pay digitally and will use it immediately and enthusiastically, others will resist it. For example, we have seen restaurants that move to the table kiosk model of payments experience some difficulties with training customers to use the device. If customers come to the restaurant infrequently or are less tech-savvy in general, servers often spend significant time showing them how to use the system or even punching everything in for them. This shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent, but it is something for restaurant owners to keep in mind.
What Technology is Out There?
One of the more established digital payment methods is the mobile wallet concept (Apple Pay, Android Pay, etc.) which has been implemented successfully by big name chains as diverse as Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera Bread. Mobile wallets work by allowing customers to touch their smartphones to a credit card machine that is equipped with near-field communication technology (NFC). The most prevalent option is Apple Pay, whose success is due in part to the fact that many, many consumers use Apple devices. As more and more businesses begin to accept Apple Pay, consumers become more and more comfortable using it because they have a lot of chances to practice. This makes it (and other mobile wallets) a great place to start for restaurants just getting started with digital payments.
Creating your own custom app is obviously a much more customizable solution, but it can come at a significant cost and with a steep learning curve. If you do choose to go this route, work with a reputable developer and involve your customers heavily in the process. The customer experience is paramount, and an app that your customers don’t love will be an app that doesn’t get used. Also, remember that the app will only really be used by your regulars and die-hard fans. Casual customers will still want to pay using more traditional methods, so be sure not to neglect them.
What about those tabletop kiosks? Chains like Outback Steakhouse and Applebee’s have been steadily implementing them over the past few years, and the response has been largely positive. Customers have expressed satisfaction with the more “on-demand” dining experience these kiosks provide, particularly during busy periods or when the restaurant is understaffed. Servers also appreciate the freedom to attend to other customer needs rather than running around passing out checks and swiping credit cards. As we noted above, however, some customers will not be comfortable with nor willing to use the kiosk model so staff will spend some extra time teaching them or even using it for them.
How Do I Get Started?
If you’ve decided that digital payments are right for your business, reach out to your credit card processor to learn what options are available and how you can best take advantage of them. In fact, your credit card terminal might already support payments from mobile wallets – you just might not know it! Your credit card processor can help you find out for sure. If you need help, you can always reach out to 360 Payments by calling 1-855-360-0360 or by dropping us a line on our website. We’d love to show you how digital payments can take your restaurant to the next level.
PS – Not convinced that mobile payments are right for you? Maybe this post will change your mind.
PPS – Check out this post to learn more about how mobile technology will revolutionize your business.