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Tableside payments are already fairly common in many parts of the world, but the payment method is still gaining ground in the United States. A key reason is the American tipping culture. At an American sit-down restaurant, it’s customary for customers to provide cash or a credit card to the server when they receive the check at the end of a meal. The server processes the payment back of house, returns a receipt, and the customer then leaves a tip.
With tableside payments, however, servers bring the check alongside a wireless terminal or point-of-sale app and processes payments right at the table, which can make the tipping exchange awkward or clunky. It’s no surprise, then, that a restaurant payment app is more frequent in cultures that do not emphasize tipping.
Why more U.S. restaurants are adopting tableside payments
According to the Square Future of Restaurants Report, 52% of restaurants plan to offer tableside payments in 2023, while 23% of consumers report that they prefer to pay tableside. The reasons for the gradual adoption of tableside payments are clear.
First, the pandemic intensified the need for businesses to adopt contactless or self-service technology as a safety measure. In fact, 94% of restaurants say that they currently offer contactless payment options. In addition, post-pandemic labor challenges have prompted restaurant owners to explore ways to use more efficient labor and keep costs low.
The Square report found that 73% of restaurants have experienced a labor shortage, with an average of 21% of positions going unfilled. Understandably, most restaurant owners (90%) agree that automating more back-of-house operations would enable their staff to focus on other important tasks and lessen the stress of their workload. This is very important if you need to hire and retain competent staff who are not only happy at work but also committed to your business.
Using tableside payment technology can help restaurant operations and staff be more efficient and has the potential to offer more benefits for restaurants.
Benefits of tableside payments for your restaurant
Accurate and faster orders
With the traditional payment method, servers must make at least two trips to process a single payment. Collecting payments at the table cuts down this time because both the check and payment are handled in one transaction. If the tableside device is integrated with back-of-house technology, customers can place orders even more quickly, eliminating the errors associated with paper-based order processing.
Most handheld devices allow you to provide tip suggestions to customers at the point of pay, so, customers are not required to do the math themselves and might even choose higher tip percentages. A survey by Software Advice found that close proximity to the server could increase tips — 36% of the respondents admitted that they would “probably increase” or “definitely increase” their likelihood to tip if they were in close proximity to the server.
Build customer profiles
Tableside payments enable businesses to collect vital customer data, such as email addresses and purchase history, which come in handy for email marketing and loyalty programs. Historical data can also help businesses identify trends and improve their offerings based on customer interest.
Accepting payments tableside can help your servers stay more organized and focused on their core task, which is delivering excellent customer service. This is because they can process orders more accurately, make fewer trips to the POS to process payments, and turn tables faster. Plus, they are also likely to receive higher tips. Ultimately, when your workers make the most efficient use of their time, they are more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs and may be less likely to quit.
If you’re considering tableside ordering for your restaurant, here are a few ways to improve the experience for your customers while increasing efficiency for your business.
Ways to create a better tableside payment experience for your customers
Invest in the right tableside device
Your handheld device is the star of your tableside ordering experience, so it’s crucial to choose a device that best fits your business needs. For example, if you need to accept multiple ordering options, such as gift cards, cash payments, chip or magstripe-only cards, then you should choose a device like Square Terminal that supports those options without an additional fee.
Train staff properly
When it comes to providing a pleasant dining experience, your servers are the most important asset. Ensure they understand how to use your chosen handheld device and can confidently respond to any questions customers might raise. Your staff should be up to date on any offers, deals, and additional information that might be useful to customers. Consider drafting a tableside payment protocol that addresses common scenarios and practicing the drill with your servers.
Exploring today’s evolution toward the future of payments
Educate customers about tableside payments
Education does not stop with your staff. Educating customers about the benefits of tableside payments (versus the traditional process) will boost adoption and ease their concerns. Below are a few ways to accomplish this:
- Create visual in-store banners that highlight the benefits of tableside payments.
- Send dedicated email newsletters to explain how it works.
- Create an FAQ page on your website to address common questions.
Reward customers for their loyalty
Offering incentives and rewards to customers who pay at the table is a great way to get more people on board. With Square Loyalty, you can easily create a digital rewards program for repeat customers. When a customer completes a transaction with the payment card linked to their Square Loyalty profile, they will automatically be shown any available rewards during checkout on Square Terminal. Once they select and redeem rewards, you can complete checkout as normal.
Tableside payments are likely here to stay. As a business owner, make the experience as hassle-free as possible for your customers and employees. Choosing a handheld device that supports your business needs is the first step. Next, train employees to provide top-notch tableside payment experience. And, overall, listen to feedback from customers and continuously improve your approach based on that insight.