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Mobile restaurants pay fees beyond the pandemic

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One of the next frontiers of restaurant evolution is adopting modern payment technology to avoid customers having to wait unnecessarily for waiters or the bill, reduce staff levels and minimize credit card fees generated by multiple transactions during a single visit.

Mobile payment and online ordering platform CardFree is shifting its focus from the pandemic-induced fires to help restaurants adapt their business models to this new era. Besides labor and processing fees, its middleware payment technology also helps operators capture valuable customer data, even if they are not enrolled in a brand’s loyalty program.

Alan Paul, Chief Revenue Officer of CardFree

California-based CardFree, founded in 2012, recently began entering the hotel space after signing up a few customers in the category to improve digital menus and ordering or swiping a card once, rather than multiple times while throughout a guest’s stay.

Chief Revenue Officer Alan Paul says hospitality and restaurants still have a lot to learn from the retail world, but believes major progress has been made, including integrating Google Pay and Apple Pay. He predicted that Venmo and PayPal will soon make payments even easier for consumers, while reducing chargebacks for disputed transactions for restaurants, which he says is a growing problem in the industry.

For establishments looking to downsize, next-gen payment technology can allow restaurants to reduce the manpower required for curbside pickup or even eliminate the need for servers in certain locations, instead letting customers order and pay themselves and using employees as dedicated couriers.

“At the start of the pandemic, it was mobile payment at the table, but SMS payment for phone orders has really been much more of a driver both from a merchant and consumer adoption perspective” in recent months, Paul added. “Every time a customer places their own order or pays on their own mobile device, it just frees up time for the servers to do something else, or in the case where there are no servers, you can model a bit and turn people into runners and let guests completely drive the ordering experience.

While processing fees are a priority in this inflationary environment, Paul pointed out that an even bigger concern is improving the customer experience when many restaurants are slipping with less than ideal staff levels.

“If I’m a consumer who waits 15 minutes for their check, and that’s the last thing I do, it’s going to leave a really bad taste in my mouth, so installing technology doesn’t have to replace the work,” he said. “It just complements the experience to make sure the guest has a good experience, and isn’t just sitting there waiting for someone to come serve them or hand them the bill.”

Omnichannel tokens save on exchange

By using an omnichannel token for customer payments across different channels, restaurants can get basic data about customers who might use their Visa card inside the restaurant and then use the same card for an order while in the restaurant. line.

“It allows us to see a customer’s behavior across all channels,” Paul said. “Now all of a sudden I can say, hey, maybe I don’t know who this person is, but from a BI and analytics perspective, I can see this individual going to the store six times a year and order online 12 times a year or whatever.

This data, which can sometimes include email and phone numbers, can allow brands to send opt-in offers that customers could skip even if they are not part of a restaurant’s loyalty program. .

Both reducing customer friction and collecting data are valuable, but Paul pointed out that reducing chargeback rates is especially important for some brands that have seen an increase in disputed charges in recent years.

He said the key to avoiding such chargebacks — when consumers dispute charges with their credit card provider — is technology that allows employees to avoid manually entering credit card information, whether using one token for multiple transactions in a single visit or using pre-verified payment methods like Apple or Google.

Thinking back to those early days of the pandemic when customers adapted to scanning QR codes for the menu and, in some cases, using their phones to separately pay for each additional drink, Paul said those clunky setups are bad for people. diners, but also costly for merchants due to multiple processing fees for each card swipe.

Middleware payment processors allow restaurants and merchants to keep tabs so that only one payment is transmitted to credit card companies. This can be particularly impactful in fast-casual settings where it may be more common for customers to order items in stages, compared to more tactile dining formats.

“If a customer can sit down and open a tab, basically, and order as much as they want and only pay at the end, that’s a better customer experience,” Paul added. “It takes the friction out of having to pay every time, but it’s also better for the restaurant from an exchange standpoint.”

While there are certainly financial incentives to reduce servers on the floor, Paul said he doesn’t expect the middle ground between QSR restaurants and fast casual restaurants on one side, and casual and fine dining restaurants on the other, will be gone anytime soon. .

Instead, he expects some restaurants to experiment with having an area of ​​the dining room dedicated to table service, while another would be more of a fast-paced, casual model where customers guide each other through. of the checkout process for a faster experience from start to finish.

“We only have one [client] it said we were going to completely switch from this casual table service to fast casual service, and it’s not an easy decision to make,” Paul said. “If a customer wants a more casual experience in your restaurant, I think you can do that with technology and you don’t necessarily have to change a lot of other things, and you can also keep your table service if you wish it. “