Ask these questions before you buy

“Stick to what you know.” It’s trusted advice that has served as the ethos for thousands of successful full-service restaurants around the United States. For most of them, this means maintaining a laser focus on delivering a consistent dining and brand experience. However, for many in the industry, the mobile payments revolution rising up in today’s technology-enabled marketplace, along with the increased requirement for PCI and EMV compliance, has suddenly become an unwelcome distraction that requires serious attention.

The dramatic changes taking place in the payments space—with the proliferation of competing mobile wallets, like Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and even new electronic currencies, like Bitcoin—have forced operators well outside of their comfort zone. They are being forced to divert their time, energy, and resources to finding a payment solution that provides a platform for the increasing range of non-traditional payment options entering the industry. For those that believe in the value and importance of sticking to what they know, this obviously puts them in an unwanted and awkward position and can evoke a real sense of vulnerability and insecurity.

Yet, finding a modern payment processing solution shouldn’t be an overwhelming experience. By knowing the right questions to ask, anyone can navigate the murky waters and find a payment processing solution that is the right fit for their restaurant.

Meeting security and payment industry compliance requirements, such as PCI and EMV, should be table stakes, but as EMV compliance is a relatively new mandate with few solutions in the marketplace today, it becomes a challenge to meet the increasing industry standards. It is important to make sure the solution has met or is well down the path of compliance with the latest secure payment standards. Is the solution PCI and EMV certified? Does it encrypt customers’ payment data throughout the payment process? Does it enable security and compliance without costly significant POS upgrades?

Inadequate security and non-compliance creates significant financial, operational, and reputational risk that restaurateurs can’t afford. The cost of installing a secure system can be relatively small when compared to the impact of even one fraudulent payment or charge back by a large party. The expenses associated with managing the fallout from a security breach and the resulting reduced foot traffic can easily justify the expense.

Let’s get to some basic questions that impact fundamental operations. Will the solution compliment or disrupt the experience of wait staff and guests? Will it accept all desired forms of payment now and in the future? Will the service staff embrace it? Does it enable financial, time and process efficiencies? Obtaining positive answers to these questions is a sound indicator that you’re headed down the right path with your selection.

Next, ask yourself if the solution was designed with empathy for the operator and their customers. Empathetic innovation, or “EI,” for retail environments drives technology designers to sit in the seat of the user, to become immersed in the merchant’s environment, and to understand the full impact on the staff and customer experience. By taking a careful look at design, restaurant operators will quickly notice that some solutions may have been rushed to market, or that they simply aren’t purpose built for the full-service restaurant environment. Not only does the payment solution need to be durable enough to withstand abuse (like a spilled drink or a dropped plate), it needs to compliment the restaurant’s culture and atmosphere.

Restaurateurs don’t want to force their customers to deal with technology designed to handle a different retail environment or back-of-the-house operations. It needs to seamlessly fit into the dining experience. Additionally, it should align with the restaurant’s service and timing. Having a constant physical presence throughout the guest’s meal may be simply unacceptable to both wait staff and customers. Instead, look for a payment solution that extends an enjoyable dining experience with a thoughtfully constructed design.

When considering cost, look beyond just the price tag. Consider operational costs, financial and brand benefits. Don’t just accept the sales pitch, ask for data that supports and quantifies a real ROI.

Lastly, give careful consideration to the implementation process. This includes planning, preparation, installation, and training for management and wait staff. Asking your payment technology vendor to provide you with customer references to discuss their experience is often a good idea. They could offer you a practical view on the implementation process and some valuable insight on the performance of the technology. What’s the return on their investment? Did implementation require a sizable financial and resource commitment? How long did it take to get up and running? Hidden costs often reveal themselves during the installation phase.

Today’s payment landscape is filled with challenges and complexities; however, using these concepts as a guide to selecting the right future proof payment solution for your specific environment should help. And allow you to quickly return to sticking to what you know best— restaurant hospitality. 

Expert Takes, Feature