Having the ability to accept and process credit and debit card transactions is crucial to any business.

As a restaurant owner, you have a lot of plates to juggle. One of the biggest plates in the mix is your payment processing capabilities. You may just have become a new owner or maybe you’re looking for a new processor for your established business. Regardless, having the ability to accept and process credit and debit card transactions is crucial to providing your customers with the most convenient and easy checkout experience possible.

For those who are not as well-versed in the payments sphere, payment processors are services that help you accept credit and debit payments and process your transactions. A lot of companies offer multiple processing methods that can help you accept payments in your restaurant and beyond. After you have found the right processor, it typically takes about one to two days to set up your account and a week or so to receive, set up, and test your new payment equipment. Once you start processing, the funds are typically deposited into your account within the following few days.

Finding a processor for your restaurant is not the easiest task. It requires a lot of research, as there are many to choose from, with varying rates and service terms that can be difficult to understand. If you already own your own point-of-sale (POS) system, then you will need to find a processor who can work with what you’ve got. Either way, if you’re looking for a payment processor, you will only be able to find the best and most affordable one by considering your options and by knowing what to look for.

Here are some things to consider before choosing your payment processing partner:

Research Providers Online: Start by searching for payment processing companies online. Write down the names of all the ones you come across. Once you’ve written them down, start searching them individually and reading reviews on them. Keep in mind that people are more likely to write a review when they are upset but it can help weed out a few from the first round of searches.

Gather Important Information About Your Restaurant: Before calling processors for pricing quotes, it is a good idea to gather all of the important information about your restaurant first. With all of this information you will have a clear understanding of what you need from the processor. You should be prepared to answer questions about your business from account representatives who will need to ask you several questions to help them understand exactly what your processing needs are.

If You Have Friends In the Industry, Talk With Them: If you have friends or peers who own a restaurant, ask them about their experiences with processing payments. They may work with a payment processor they absolutely love or they may have advice on companies to avoid.

Know Your Credit Score: As with most businesses, you will have better options for financing if you have good credit. This should not deter you if you have less-than-savory credit—the processor may be able to refer you to different financing options or work with you by charging higher rates until you’ve established history or until your credit improves.

Consider Multiple Payment Processors: Bouncing off of the research bullet point above, it is highly recommended to narrow your choices down to two to five processors before making a final decision. Although this requires more time, it is worth having the options and comparing who can get you the best service for your money.

Consider Your POS Needs: If you want or need new or updated equipment, quotes can be given to you by an account representative. You need to consider how many terminals, card readers, or POS systems you want for your business and how many you can afford. Also consider what your growth will be over time and find out if the processors can adjust for potential future growth.

Have Accurate Monthly Sales Volume Numbers Ready to Go: Some payment processors consider your monthly sales volumewhen they provide price quotes. Some companies may require that you process a certain amount every month in order to qualify for an account in the first place. If you process below that amount, you may have to work with a different processor. Some may not have a monthly volume count but they may require a monthly minimum fee to pay if your processing is low.  

Look for the Best Processing Terms: Flexible terms are what you should be looking for. You need to have the freedom to switch services if you happen to find better pricing or service elsewhere. Avoid hidden fees, nonstandard fees, and companies that do not include customer service in their processing terms and conditions.

Avoid Setup or Application Fees: Most companies do not charge for setup or application but it doesn’t hurt to double check with each company you are considering.

Do Not Settle for Your Bank: Even though your bank may be able to provide reasonable processing rates and may seem more convenient to work with, you are likely to find much better rates, technical support, and terms from actual payment processing companies. You can still maintain a good relationship with your bank AND process your restaurant payments elsewhere.

First and foremost, take your time when shopping around for your potential payment processing provider. Make sure that each one of the companies you are looking at takes the time to clearly explain their rates, structure, and fee schedules with you. Once you have your list finalized, call each one and plan to spend 30-40 minutes on the phone with each one discussing rates, fees, technical support, and service terms. If you find a company that fits your business needs and pricing, make sure you request the quote via email to review further.

While you’re on the phone with an account representative, pay attention to how thorough, thoughtful, patient, and knowledgeable they are. This is the company who you are going to be partnered with, who will be processing all of your payments for you. You are going to need to rely on them if anything goes wrong or if you have any questions, so be sure to evaluate the relationship seriously.

Once you’ve called all of your contenders, requested quotes, and read all of the contracts, you should feel confident in choosing the processor that will best suit your restaurant’s needs. The road to choosing a payment processor may be filled with headaches and a lot of time spent, but it truly is worth it to save yourself the trouble down the road.  

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