The trend toward embracing contactless payments in restaurant technology already appeared unstoppable even before the onset of COVID-19.
One leading fintech and payments industry research firm, for example, has estimated that some 53% of all POS transactions will be contactless by 2023, increasing from a mere 15% in 2018; the value of these contactless payments likely tripling to $6 trillion in the same period.
And while it’s true that the US had previously been a slow adopter of contactless technologies, the coronavirus pandemic has changed all that.
With medical research suggesting that the coronavirus may remain viable on some surfaces for as long as 72 hours, many customers have been understandably reluctant to return to their favorite restaurants, even when local and state regulations have permitted them to do so.
And with the new normal of reduced seating capacities, curbside pickups and carry outs looking as though it will be with us for the foreseeable future, it’s only those outlets that can offer their customers complete reassurance, as well as superior customer service, that can expect even to survive, let alone prosper.
Fortunately, though, the benefits of contactless technologies reach far beyond the safety of customers and staff.
It’s an old adage in business that retaining existing customers is infinitely easier and more cost-effective than acquiring new ones, and it’s never been truer than in the era of coronavirus.
An effective loyalty program is something that no restaurant can now afford to do without, but the good news is running these programs is simplicity itself with contactless cell phone and POS technologies. Points can be automatically added and spent, and customer spending patterns monitored – all without the need for potentially risky physical membership cards.
Industry studies suggest that more than 2/3rds of restaurant-goers cite waiting for the check at the end of the meal as their main source of frustration with the eating out experience.
Setting up your restaurant POS system to allow for mobile payments at the table can eliminate much of this irritation. There’s no need for your wait staff to bring a physical check, or to hurry to and from a card processor that may or may not have a speedy connection.
Customers simply pay when they’re ready by tapping their phone or presenting their contactless-enabled cards, and they can at the same time make use of any loyalty points they may have available.
Despite some lingering perceptions to the contrary, mobile payments are in fact considerably more secure than credit or debit cards – for both customer and restaurant.
When customer links a card to Apple or Google Pay, for example, the card number is not stored on the customer’s mobile device or on Apple or Google’s servers.
Transactions are authorized with a single use token (security code) and no confidential information is retained on the restaurant’s own systems, making the business much less susceptible to potentially disastrous data breaches.
Meanwhile, the increasing sophistication of biometric recognition technology such as fingerprint and facial recognition has made customer’s personal data much more secure if ever their phone is lost or stolen.
Fortunately, facilitating contactless payments is now relatively simple using QR codes or Near Field Communication (NFC) tags, and most POS systems should be able to recognize contactless cards and offer integrations with all major digital wallets and contactless apps.
But for maximum customer confidence, you should also consider implementing contactless ordering options, avoiding the obvious risks presented by old-fashioned printed menus that have come into contact with dozens of different hands.
Scannable QR codes are a simple solution that allows customers to view menus on their cell phones. Digital menu boards are an alternative for those unable to use a phone in this way.
To put it bluntly, restaurants are going to be embracing contactless payments long after this virus has been consigned to the history books. But in this time of extreme difficulty for many restaurants, you can’t afford to wait to get started.