The coronavirus pandemic took a huge toll on the restaurant industry. Statista has been tracking the number of seated restaurant diners from February to November 2020. As of Nov. 7, the number of on-premises diners had decreased by more than 35 percent year over year. Some restaurants may actually interpret that as good news, given the 100 percent decrease during shutdowns in March.
The decline in dine-in business has also taken a toll on another group: restaurant ISVs and VARs. The pandemic rendered the solutions you provide hospitality clients – especially table service restaurants – obsolete, at least in the short term, and you, like your clients, have devoted much of 2020 to finding ways to sustain your business.
ISVs and VARs with the greatest creativity and agility, however, are overcoming the hurdles the pandemic created and finding ways to help their table service restaurant clients build new revenue streams. One example is adapting pay-at-the-table solutions to accommodate curbside Payment.
Pay-at-The Table and Curbside Payment Solution Similarities
Pay-at-the-table solutions grew in popularity for the advantages they provide restaurant businesses and the convenience they offer to their customers. With a pay-at-the-table device, servers don’t make multiple trips back and forth to a point of sale (POS) terminal. They hand the device to the customer to make a credit or debit card payment, add a tip, and complete the transaction on the spot. It creates a quicker, more convenient payment experience for customers and saves servers time so they can turn more tables. Additionally, pay-at-the-table solutions also give customers a sense of security because their payment cards never leave their sight.
Now that restaurant employees are providing service curbside rather than at the table, these solutions can be adapted or rebranded for new processes. Like pay-at-the-table processes, they save steps and enhance payment experiences for customers who prefer to remain in their cars to stay socially distanced.
Text-to-Pay and QR-code based Curbside payment solutions
One quick way to enable curbside payments is to deploy a text-to-pay solution. This technology enables merchants to text a payment link, which takes customers to a payment page or allows them to pay directly from the link.
Another relatively quick way to enable curbside payments is to deploy QR code payment transactions where merchants print out a 2D code that customers scan with the cameras on their smartphones. The code takes consumers to a payment page, similar to what they’d use to make an online purchase. There’s nothing for the customer to download, and if payment data is stored on the consumer’s phone, it can autopopulate — the customer can complete the payment with just a few taps. The merchant’s payments solution provider can customize the page as needed, for example, setting it up as a fixed fee for a service or enabling the customer to enter the payment amount, such as when donating to a nonprofit organization.
With text-to-pay and QR code payment solutions, the customer can also make the payment on the spot, with just a few clicks.
An Alternative to Online Ordering
Many restaurants have implemented online ordering systems or partnered with a third-party ordering and delivery platform to continue to engage with customers and keep revenues coming in. However, not all restaurants, from mom-and-pop pizza shops to fine dining establishments, have solutions that enable them to accept payments online. In these cases, some customers may place orders by phone and pay when they arrive to pick up their orders. Or, diners may make their selections from an online menu, but the restaurant hasn’t upgraded tech to have the ability to accept online payments. Businesses whose concept doesn’t include a drive-through may also optimize service by taking orders and payment car side when customers arrive at their restaurants.
Your pay-at-the-table solution may be able to be adapted or rebranded for these use cases. Furthermore, depending on the IT infrastructure, hardware, point of sale (POS software) and payment systems in place, it may be the most cost-effective solution for the client.
Tablet-based or Mobile Device Curbside Payment Solutions
Leveraging pay-at-the-table for curbside Payment takes more than just walking outside. Whether the restaurant wants to use mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets, or purpose-built pay-at-the-table devices, you need to ensure they are suited to outdoor use and have adequate battery life. The devices should also have 4G connectivity as well as Wi-Fi to allow employees to serve customers parked in a wider area and to provide a backup if the restaurant’s network goes down.
To accommodate health safety-conscious customers, the device should also be equipped with near-field communication (NFC) technology and be configured to accept contactless payments so that people can use contactless cards or mobile wallets rather than having to touch the device. Some customers will likely dip their EMV cards and use a PIN pad, however, so ensure the device is constructed of materials that will last through repeated disinfecting.
Also, as for pay-at-the-table use cases, consider an integrated receipt printer in addition to offering email or text receipts.
Curbside Payment Isn’t Just for Restaurants
The solution you design may have applications beyond restaurants. Print shops, office supply stores, pet shops and other retail businesses with regular customers may be taking phone orders and accepting payment curbside when customers arrive to pick them up. Also, some veterinary offices are offering curbside check-in so that pet owners can socially distance while their pets receive the care they need. When a tech returns the pet to the car, a curbside payment solution can eliminate the need for invoicing and improve cash flow.
Although revenues from your restaurant clients may have decreased this year, a curbside payment solution may help you expand your business into new verticals and niches. Adapting pay-at-the-table solutions for curbside payment is only one example of how solutions providers are addressing new pain points by adapting the solutions they provide. Creative ISVs and VARs are exploring the possibilities.