Recent predictions believe that lines between restaurant and retail will continue to blur in 2016 and beyond. The onus is on restaurant operators to give customers the same kinds of on-demand service they get from retailers. Here’s a look at how restaurants can leverage payment technologies to remain competitive.
Mobile payments. The longer you make customers wait to be seated, to order or to settle their check, the less likely they are to return or recommend your business to others. Mobile payments allow customers to pay using their debit or credit card, while empowering employees to finalize customers’ bills alongside their table using a smartphone or tablet. A basic mobile-payment system can also simplify carryout operations: Your staff can finalize customer payments while food is being prepared.
Because mobile payments also allow the customer to receive receipts via email or text message and add a customized tip, the payment technology eliminates the risk associated with leaving hard-copy receipts at the customer’s seat unattended.
Choose a mobile payment processor that guarantees PCI-compliant payment processing (a set of standards that were established in 2006 by the Payment Card Industry to proactively address payment security concerns). By partnering with a PCI-compliant vendor, you can rest assured that your customer’s sensitive payment information is adequately protected.
Secure online payments. You may operate a restaurant, but the more you approach your website’s payment process like an e-commerce retailer, the more successful you stand to become. As an article in Esquire recently noted, most restaurants — even those that are highly successful — have plenty of room to improve their website’s functionality and payment technology.
Review your website with the same level of scrutiny you would a retail e-commerce site: Is the menu easily viewed on a mobile and desktop device? Does it allow customers to click an item, learn about the ingredients, nutrition and preparation details, and to click on the item to place it in their cart? Do you offer a secure web-based payment portal that allows customers to complete their order and pay on a mobile and desktop device?
Many mobile payment providers also allow merchants to accept and process secure web-based payments using one merchant account. The revenue you generate in either channel is directed to the same bank account following approval of the transaction, to make cash flow easier to manage.
Point-of-sale systems. Like mobile payments, a mobile point-of-sale system allows you to facilitate secure customer payments from anywhere in your restaurant, and even off site at special events or festivals. However, point-of-sale systems can also help you manage inventory — including the ability to issue purchase orders, receive and remove inventory from stock, and reduce waste associated with unused ingredients with limited shelf life. Point-of-sale systems can also streamline communication between front and back of house staff, to reduce errors in meal preparation when customers have special requests.
Aside from payment technology capabilities, point-of-sale systems can also simplify the process of executing targeted marketing programs delivered via email and direct mail. Consider a recent infographic from FiveStars about the importance of strategic marketing offers: Once offered a deep discount, just 20 percent of customers will return to pay full price. When you issue blanket promotions to the public, you put your business at risk, and erode profit margins. A point-of-sale system can arm you with the marketing intelligence you need to understand your audience’s unique price sensitivity. When you segment your audience strategically, you can determine how aggressive your promotions need to be, without giving up too much profit. If your restaurant offers a loyalty program, you can also execute it using your point-of-sale system, making it simple for customers to earn and redeem rewards.
What you serve customers is as important as how you serve them in the competitive restaurant industry. Payment technologies allow you to offer a streamlined and convenient point-of-sale experience — but can also contribute so much more to the overall customer experience and your overall success.
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm. She has more than 20 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing. Follow her on Twitter at @BluePay_CMO.