Touchless Payment: The New Reality of Paying at a Dine-In Restaurant

As states such as Georgia, Florida and Texas begin to allow restaurants to cautiously reopen, it offers some understanding – for the first time – of what dining out will look and feel like in the wake of COVID-19.  

With strict state guidelines in place, restaurants are quickly adapting their hospitality experience to accommodate new health and safety protocols, including the physical distancing between people, the prudent use of sanitizer and facemasks, and all things touchless – including the payment process.

A truly touchless payment process has never been more important in the restaurant industry.  It’s now a key piece to a larger effort for rebuilding public confidence in dining out and the general return of the full-service restaurant industry. 

While most people are familiar with contactless payments, like Apple Pay and Google Pay – which use near field communication (NFC) to conduct payments with device-to-device proximity – these are not the only way for restaurant operators to present customers with a touchless payment experience. 

By extending the POS to the table, it’s possible for nearly any restaurant to adapt their payment experience so that there’s never the need for customers or employees to handle credit cards. Instead, there’s a need to reduce contact between the server and customer. There’s a solution to this that also enables restaurant operators to reliably meet the government’s new requirements.

Imagine for a moment that you’re seated with a friend at your favorite upscale restaurant.  You may be wearing protective masks and you’re sitting six feet from the nearest guests.  The new normal as we know it.

A member of the wait staff appears also wearing a facemask, welcomes you and presents the table with disposable paper menus.  After a few minutes looking over the menu, you place your order, and when the food arrives, you enjoy your meal.  When you’re finished, you may put a mask back over your face – again, part of the new normal that some states have mandated for dine in guests – and you wait for the bill to arrive. 

Within a few minutes, the wait staff clears the table and they leave behind an elegant looking payment device that’s befitting of the upscale environment.  It’s equipped with point-to-point encryption and EMV capability – the standard features for securely accepting payments today.  While the device offers all the common payment options – a swipe, a dip or a tap – you prefer not to take it in your hands. Instead, the device remains on the table and you choose to quickly scan with your phone a QR code that is presented.

The scan kicks-off an encrypted string that goes to a website that decrypts it and brings up various payment options and receipt choices. The payment screen has the restaurant logo and colors, so you immediately recognize that you’re on the right path.

You complete the payment, including a gracious tip for the wait staff that missed weeks of wages, and provide the required email and phone number.  This is also part of the new reality.  Many restaurants, such as those re-opening in Washington state for example, are now required to keep a record of each customer and their contact information, as well as the name of the server in case health officials need to trace a virus outbreak.  On the more positive side, the restaurant can also use the information to send you a coupon or discount for a future visit.

This touchless payment scenario is something that doesn’t need to be imagined.  It’s real, it exists and it’s part of the new reality unfolding at restaurants across the United States.  Now more than ever, restaurants need to embrace their customers, and in this new normal, it’s done by giving customers an entirely touchless experience – right down to the payment process.