Pay-at-the-Table Technology Boosts Safety, Convenience and Satisfaction

Opening a restaurant, and then achieving and maintaining profitability, isn’t easy. In fact, there’s a veritable cottage industry of television shows dedicated to the cutthroat nature of the business. Gordon Ramsay isn’t very forgiving, and diners who spend their hard-earned money can be just as demanding.

Offering a quality product is the most obvious goal that restaurants strive to achieve, but with 80 percent of restaurants risking failure in the first five years, success hinges on more than just food. A passion for culinary arts is rarely enough to compensate for a lack of business skills. 

A wealth of other variables every day decide who stays open and who ends up closing their doors. Surprisingly, security and speed of payment transactions are two factors that have been proven to be important to many customers. 

A recent survey by TSYS, a global payments company that serves nearly 800,000 merchants across the U.S., found security to be the most important payment consideration for 61 percent of customers paying at a restaurant, while 32 percent of those surveyed found speed of transaction to be the most desirable attribute.

That’s 93 percent of potential restaurant patrons who value either the security or speed of their payment transaction.

Long-term Payoff

Pay-at-the-table technology in restaurants offers a solution for both types of people. The same TSYS survey found a strong majority of frequent diners – 79 percent – would prefer all restaurants offer a pay-at-the-table option. 

This figure wouldn’t surprise Europeans since it’s a standard way to pay there, and has been for some time.

While pay-at-the-table may require a slightly higher upfront investment, the potential upside is significant.  Enterprising restauranteurs should consider adopting pay-at-the-table for myriad reasons, but let’s focus on three of the biggest: safety, convenience and customer satisfaction.


A large majority of those surveyed saw security as an important factor. It makes sense if you consider the process of paying for a tab at most American eateries: After bringing the check, the waiter leaves the table with the customer’s credit card, disappearing from sight for several minutes with a customer’s valuable financial information. Although this is the standard practice, the feeling can be disconcerting for some restaurant patrons, especially if it takes a while. 

Even if the food was fantastic, long waits while the waiter disappears with the credit or debit card can mean lower tips and negative Yelp or other online reviews.

For restaurant owners, this process represents real risk. Even the best restaurant staff will have the occasional outlier, and giving him or her ample opportunity to steal financial information is bound to backfire at some point. According to TSYS’s survey, 41 percent of frequent diners would not return to a restaurant if their personal information was breached at that establishment.

With pay-at-the-table technology, the server simply brings a device directly to the table, where the entire transaction is then completed. Temptation to steal customer information averted.


Adding pay-at-the-table technology to a restaurant increases convenience not just from the customers’ perspective, but from the business owners’ as well.

When opening a restaurant, many entrepreneurs spring for the cheapest payments system to manage initial costs, but using bare-bones technology provides little scalability for growth opportunities.

For example, many restaurants host festivals or tastings to augment their business – especially in the summer. Payment systems that can work both in-house, as well as remotely help make these types of events seamless for the restaurant and the customer. Launching a food truck is easy when you already have a system that supports mobile payments. 

When evaluating a payments system, select one that can grow with the business and offer new payments options. Take TSYS’s Vital POS system, for example.An entrepreneur who starts by selling food at a local farmer’s market and accepting payment through a mobile phone could easily scale up to countertop payment terminals as he or she expand to a brick-and-mortar location. This transition is easy because Vital products are all built on the same back office software.

Customer Satisfaction

Providing this new technology opens the door to increased customer satisfaction – pleasing those 79 percent of frequent diners that prefer pay-at-the-table. 

After all, customer expectations are changing: as technologies evolve, they expect a seamless experience. Having your staff running from the table to a register in a back room, and then back to the table, is not as efficient as it could be. Customers are beginning to notice – and expect more than the traditional point-of-sale setup. 

Savvy restaurant owners who choose the newest technology over the old will be seen as innovative. It’s a value add that can be passed on to the customer. Restaurants looking to attract younger diners should be especially interested in a pay-at-the-table solution. If offered the opportunity to pay at the table, 72 percent of Millennials said they’d prefer this option (not to mention 69 percent of Gen X/Y and 66 percent of Boomers).

It hasn’t quite caught on yet, but expect the trend to grow in 2019 and beyond. 

A Seamless Experience

Factors driving this conversion will be a combination of security, convenience and the push to achieve better customer satisfaction. As more restaurants recognize the need to be proactive in preventing fraud, they will begin to see the upside of investing in better technology. 

Minding every detail when operating a restaurant means taking a closer look at payments technology and how it affects the overall customer experience. The food will always be important, but how it’s paid for matters to people, too.