The next big thing in the restaurant industry technology is Pay-at-table (PAT), of which there are two types.
Swipe at table
The first style of PAT is via a credit card swipe at the table. This can take place in one of two ways. The first is the most common — giving a credit card to a server who swipes it into her handheld POS device while she's standing in front of you. Then her device prints a receipt or she can email it to you. This is not only quick, but also guarantees that your credit card is never visually out of your sight. This really reduces anyone being given the opportunity to steal your credit card information and adds protection against identity theft.
The second style is to have the customer process the transaction themselves via tablets mounted at the tables. Larger chains such as Applebee's, Chili's, and Chevy's have all tried tablets at tables. Table tablets allow for advertisements, games for kids, menu assistance, and ordering. They also let the customer view their bill, swipe their credit card to pay, and then leave without having to wait for a server.
What is becoming even more popular among consumers are the PAT apps. There's been an onslaught of them on the market recently. Most of these apps store the customers' credit cards within the app itself.
Again, there are variations. One method is via reservation apps. A customer makes a reservation at a restaurant that is served by the reservation app. They arrive, dine, and then get up and leave. These apps most often have a default gratuity set in them of 18-20% so that the tipping is automatic as well. There are also walk-in apps where a customer doesn't need a reservation, they can just go to a restaurant that accepts the app.
Another variation is via credit card or payment service applications themselves. Some provide that the customer must make their presence known to the restaurant and let them know that they will be paying via the app, whereas in the reservation apps the identity and payment method would already be known via the reservation.
What both methods share in common is that the app companies must make agreements with restaurants to accept the apps and await payment. With the new proliferation of PAT apps there is a lot of competition to sign up restaurants.
There are also a lot of questions for the restaurants. Does a restaurant sign with one or multiple apps? How long must they wait for the actual funds to be transferred via this new third party? What fees, if any, are there?
What is clear is that Pay-at-table is becoming more popular and one of the technology trends that appears to be sticking. It's important for restaurants to think carefully how they want to enter into this new area.
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