The checkout process should be as simple as a walk in the park - nay, it should be simpler than that.
" Just point me where to place my card, or point my phone's camera to scan the QR code, and let me get on with my day." Such is the mindset of the average customer when it comes to making payments.
Quick and seamless payment methods were experiences exclusive to online businesses (such as ecommerce). But the pervasiveness of modern-day payment solutions has made its way into the hospitality industry. To be competitive, provide a pleasant customer experience, and retain hard-earned clients, you have to use a payment method that works best for everyone across the board.
Payments Should be Fast, Secure, and Pleasant
The criterion for payment experiences are based on three conditions:
i) Fast - so customers don't have to spend any longer at your establishment than they have to after they're done with their meal.
ii) Secure - so customers won't have to worry about hackers learning about their private details
iii) Pleasant - because who doesn't like a pleasant experience?
Here are three areas you can focus on to improve the payment experience for your restaurant's customers.
Handheld POS have exploded in popularity due to their ease of use and convenience. They also improve table turn efficiency and minimize miscommunications that are a norm in restaurants. More importantly, handhelds can be stress busters for customers and servers because they vastly improve the checkout process.
For customers, handheld POS gives them access to faster table service, a more efficient checkout process, and fewer errors in the order.
For servers, the time savings can be a valuable boon to the services they can provide. The average server will walk back and forth around 4 to 5 times for each table. You could cut that down to 1 or 2 times of running around - and free up time to improve the relationship with diners.
Order and Pay from the Customer's Mobile Phone
Think about diners belonging to the Gen Z and millennial generations - now add the growing number of boomers who have also embraced the convenience of paying with their phones.
You're looking at a sizable percentage of customers who no longer keep pocket change and prefer to use their phone for everything.
This is especially true in the case of Gen Z customers, who have been born with a smartphone in their hands. These young people have shorter attention spans and lots of money to spend 0now that they've entered the workforce.
They expect pay-at-the-table, NFC, and EMV payments - it's no longer just an option, but a utility.
In most cases, guests will scan a QR code to access the restaurant's menu and then order and pay what they want from their phone. This method gives guests complete control throughout the ordering process.
Another alternative is scan to pay, where the server drops a bill with a QR code at the bottom. This allows guests to scan and pay directly from their mobile phones.
This technology allows servers and bartenders to focus on the core areas of their job - improving customer experience and making them happy. Since they don't have to worry about menial and repetitive tasks anymore, they can focus on connecting with the guests, upselling items, and asking for feedback without receipts bogging their pace.
Mobile payments can be linked to other dining apps that you can partner up with. You can also create your own restaurant app and encourage customers to use it for payments. Many customers prefer to use apps that help them make payments and provide them with loyalty programs linked to their accounts.
For all of this to properly work together, your payment processor should be integrated with popular apps that customers prefer to work with.
Google, Samsung, and Apple - three juggernauts of the tech industry - have a sizable portion of the customer base and have integrated mobile payment functionality into their systems. This allows customers to stay informed about loyalty rewards they have, say, $20 that can be useful to cover part of the tab.
The restaurant industry is pivoting to this model of loyalty programs. It's the best effective way to keep customers coming back long after they first visited. Mobile wallet integration has taken loyalty to a whole new level.
Customers no longer have to carry their reward cards with them; instead, they can simply look it up on their smartphones. Their loyalty rewards continue to rack up without them having to sift through a dozen or so reward cards.
Things to Look for in a Restaurant Payment Processor
As a restaurateur, you will find dozens of payment processors. From PayPal and Stripe to Lightspeed and Planday, you have enough options to make your head spin.
But your goal is to find a method that works best for you.
Here are a few things to look for in a restaurant payment processor.
It is worth noting that every payment processor has its own rules on deposit times. For obvious reasons, getting paid on time is crucial for you and your staff. So, ask the sales rep of the payment processor about the average deposit times for the funds to arrive into your account.
For the most part, the average time is about two business days. Anything slower may be too slow for you. Do keep in mind that payment processors who provide you with faster deposit times will charge you a fee for being faster than everybody else.
Look into the Payment Processor's Chargeback Policy
Payment processors are particularly harsh with businesses when it comes to chargebacks. The client is always given the benefit of the doubt for most part. This can be a real headache for smaller restaurants that use traditional payment systems and don't have the ability to investigate chargebacks.
It can be especially demotivating, not just to the restaurateur, but also the staff when a customer claims never to have eaten from your restaurant, their card was used by someone else to make fraudulent payments, or that the dining experience was never good enough.
While you should strive to make sure this never happens and focus on improving the customer experience, you should never do so at your own peril.
This is why it's important to ask the sales reps of the payment processors about their process for chargebacks. They should have a clearly defined policy for chargebacks.
PayPal, for one, used to be notorious for its chargebacks and often imposed punishing penalties on businesses that were often innocent.
Investigate Their Security Features
Ease of payments should never come at the cost of safety and security. You want to improve the customer experience from the moment they walk into your restaurant. But it's also important to take the necessary steps to secure transactions.
It is your responsibility to comply with security requirements when taking someone's credit card or debit card information. Make sure to align your security policies with the Payment Card Industry Security Standard Council (PCI SSC). Most payment processors will handle this for you.
The Customer Support
You'll run into technical problems every now and then. That's part of the initial onboarding process. This is why you'll have to find all the help you can. The best payment processors have support staff on standby round the clock for their customers. Make sure to ask the sales rep if customer support is free or billed.
The Payment Processor Should Sync Up With Your Restaurant
One of the most crucial things to look for is the level of integration of the software. See if it can sync up with the needs of your business. For example, you may require the following features:
- Sales reporting and analytics: will give you the ability to evaluate your restaurant's performance at different times of the day and week.
- Order management: lets you synchronize the payment processor with the kitchen's inventory.
- Inventory management: provides a menu of products that you can sell at your restaurant. You will want a payment processor that can also process returns and exchanges.
The checkout process should not be painful for your diners. Technology has created a faster payment experience for customers, and your restaurant can reap the rewards that come with better data analytics, mobile integrations, and customer loyalty.
The restaurant's payment method is as much a part of the customer experience as the food itself. It can have an impact on everyone, your diners, the kitchen and floor staff, and the management.
Imagine being able to provide a great meal, fast and quick service, a lovely ambiance. Add to that some great conversations with your diners.
And once it's time for everyone to go their separate ways, your payment processor handles everything quickly and swiftly. Diners will appreciate this experience and crave more.