Fly-By Wireless


Wireless credit-card terminals are fast becoming the norm

Let’s face it: paying the bill isn’t the highlight of any dining experience. And, with the arrival of chip-and-PIN credit cards in Canada over the past year, it’s become a downright drag for those diners who have to schlep their debit or credit card across the restaurant to input a four-digit PIN at a landline terminal.

Despite this nuisance, the enhanced level of security that comes with chip-and-PIN credit cards is a boon for the public who get “bill closure” in the moment, says Geoff Wilson, president of fs Strategy Inc., a Toronto-based consultancy. “In the old system, when I wrote down my tip value amount on the bill and walked away, I had to trust that the server would enter the amount accurately and close the file.” But unless restaurateurs adopt wireless credit-card terminals that allow diners to pay using their chip-and-PIN credit (and debit) cards at the table, diners face “an awful disruption in their experience to achieve that closure,” adds Wilson.

To help bridge the gap, and prevent fraud, major POS system providers have made upgrades to integrate chip-and-PIN credit-card payment capabilities, including wireless, says Jeff van Duynhoven, president of TD Merchant Services, a provider of wireless hand-held credit-card terminals. “Those restaurants using systems that are not yet integrated may need to consider renting a stand-alone chip-and-PIN terminal to ensure they are protected from fraud,” he adds.

Those who have wireless machines usually rent hand-held units, so they don’t have to worry about any technical problems or software upgrades, explains van Duynhoven. There are short-range and long-range units, with the former operating on a high-speed Internet connection and requiring installation from a separate service provider, while the latter operates on cellphone technology, which might not work in all locations. Rental costs range from $40 to $45 per hand-held, per month.

Early adopters of the terminals such as Cara Operations Limited in Vaughan, Ont., which has used an average of five hand-held units, to be shared amongst staff at 495 locations, during the past two years, say that the investment is worth it in improved guest experience. “Customers are full of positive feedback on the wireless units. They love the convenience and the ability to pay at the table,” says Stephanie Fry, vice-president, Business Intelligence and Information Technology at Cara.

Efficiency is another bonus: fs Strategy’s Wilson says the units help reduce the payment process from three or four touch points (waiter brings bill, picks up bill with card, brings back for signing, takes it back to terminal) to one (bringing over the hand-held unit with the bill for processing at the table). “That could reduce table occupation from 55 minutes to 50 minutes, which in a very busy restaurant means turning another table.”

Derek Boyd, director of IT at the Vancouver-based Joey Restaurant Group, likes the newer technology, too. “For us, the most compelling reason to adopt the wireless terminal is the enhanced level of security and customer service they allow us to provide.” Joey Restaurants has been using wireless terminals at its separate stand-alone restaurant, Local Public Eatery, since it opened a year ago, and they are currently testing at one Joey location. “I would say it’s important to provide some coaching to servers on how to present the terminal to the guest,” adds Boyd. “We want guests to feel comfortable with the process, so it’s important they have as much privacy as possible when completing the transaction.”

van Duynhoven points out one last bonus that comes with implementing a wireless payment processing machine: it will make it easier for diners to pay with Interac, which could save merchants a significant amount of money since the merchant fee on a $100 tab could drop to $.10, for using debit, from about $2, for using a credit card.

Still think you can get away with your old debit- or credit-card technology? Well, according to van Duvnhoven, it’s not going to get any easier for restaurateurs. Effective this month, Canadian merchants will incur any cost of credit-card fraud directed at their business, unless they implement chip-and-PIN terminals.

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