Why It's Time for All Restaurants to Adopt Pay at the Table Technology

EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa after the three companies who initially worked on the technology together. EMV, or “chip” credit cards, are on their way to common use in the United States as they already are in Europe and other parts of the world. EMV transactions are commonly processed with the consumer inserting their own card (as long as it has a chip) into a payment terminal.

Up until recently, many restaurants have not had the proper technology to process this type of transaction, either due to point-of-sale restrictions or because they have yet to realize the benefits of having consumers pay at the table. Not only does bringing the point of sale to the customer help to boost table turns and revenue, it also helps to protect customer cardholder data, which is a major concern for all businesses.

Restaurants can use mPOS systems to introduce pay-at-the-table into their operations, and by doing so, they will boost their revenue, mitigate fraud and improve customer service.


Higher table turns. Consider a typical payment transaction with a magnetic stripe card: a server drops a check at the table in a billfold, and leaves. The customer retrieves their card and leaves it in the billfold, then waits for the server to return. Sometimes that happens a minute later, and sometimes it’s 10 or more minutes later.  Then the customer waits again for their receipt. Most restaurants measure table turns closely, and even small increases can contribute to profitability. Moving from three to four table turns per shift can increase revenue by 20-25 percent.

Less waiting for customers, higher tips for servers. Cutting down that wait time by bringing the payment device to the table not only leads to more table turns and increased face-time, but also higher customer satisfaction. The result is better tips for servers. We witnessed this firsthand in Canada, where Pay-at-the-Table became the standard shortly after that country’s EMV migration in 2010.

Reduced chargebacks. Businesses that do not upgrade their payment technology to accept EMV chip cards are putting themselves at risk of chargebacks due to credit card fraud. Major acquirers have reported that chargebacks have been on the rise since the October 2015 liability shift, with restaurants being one of the major areas affected. This is essentially a trickle-down effect: as more merchants move to EMV, fraud moves to areas that have been slower adopters. Even a small increase in chargebacks and card fraud can be potentially devastating to a small business.

Reductions in identity theft. Card skimming by servers has been known to occur in restaurants, where cards can leave the consumers’ sight for several minutes. Servers who are part of fraud rings can wear discreet card skimmers on their belt loops and collect card data from hundreds of customers in a week. Five hundred skimmed cards can be sold on the black market for $1500 or more, significantly boosting a server’s annual income. Pay-at-the-table eliminates that possibility by keeping cards out of servers’ possession. 


Unlike at quick-service restaurants, customers at full-service restaurants generally pay for their meal in two steps: first they see the bill and provide their credit card, which the server swipes through the card reader. Then, when the server brings the receipt to be signed, the customer adds a tip, writes down the total, and signs the receipt. Later, you adjust the totals to account for the tip when you settle your credit card transactions. It may still be possible to process gratuities this way with chip cards, but it may not work on all cards. If it doesn’t work, you may not realize it until the customer has left, costing your staff money they earned in tips that they can’t collect. To avoid that problem, you can assume that adjusting for tips won’t be possible with any chip cards and instead change the process of accepting tips. There are two ways to go about it: You can utilize mobile POS equipment, which will allow your servers to dip the EMV chip card at the customer’s table and hand it to them to input their tip amount. If you don’t want to or can’t use mobile equipment, you can request that customers add the tip when they first give your server their card so that the server enters the full total (with tip) when dipping the customer’s card. Which method you use will depend on your own business needs and resources.

Think your restaurant is ready to talk about EMV? Revzi provides mPOS technology solutions, including implementation and training, for many of the most popular point-of-sale systems on the market today.   https://www.revzi.com/support