It’s tough to tell how fast restaurants are adopting new payment processing technologies. Also tricky: assessing the tangible advantages that result when these systems are put in place. Which is why we’re glad a just-released study from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration is giving the industry a comprehensive look at the benefits and drawbacks of mobile wallets, tabletop tablets and other new payment devices.
Cornell professor Dr. Sheryl Kimes and Mississippi State’s Dr. Joel Collier are the authors of “Customer-Facing Payment Technology in the U.S. Restaurant Industry.” Their work compiles data from a handful of previous studies to create a snapshot of where customer-facing payment technology (CFPT) stands today.
Why this study now? “The U.S. restaurant industry has so far been cautious in adopting electronic payment technology for customer use,” Kimes and Collier write. “Although a relatively small percentage of restaurants have implemented CFPT, it’s clear that this is about to change, and CFPT is set to explode.” The reason for this pending explosion? The authors cite a list of benefits that include “faster settlement, less wait-staff time needed, greater security, improved customer satisfaction, reduced labor costs, increased revenue, and access to better customer data.”
These are improvements every restaurant operator wants to achieve. So why the “cautious” rate of adoption? Security issues are one concern, the authors say. Other barriers include “infrastructure issues, the cost of CFPT devices, the cost of integrating CFPT with existing POS and payment systems, the impact of reduced customer contact, and the fact that the CFPT industry is still highly fragmented.”
Customer acceptance isn’t a barrier. Kimes and Collier cite the results of a National Restaurant Association survey that found more than half of U.S. restaurant customers would use a tableside payment option if one were offered. But the authors note that not all the benefits of CFPT devices may be compelling for every full-service customer. While faster is better in QSR and fast casual, speed is not necessarily of the essence in other segments. Kimes and Collier say full-service customers are comfortable with a relaxed pace during most aspects of their meal, so the extra couple of minutes it takes to process a payment away from the table seems acceptable in context. In particular, fine dining patrons are not in a hurry to leave.
CFPT technology, particularly tablets, has already made strong inroads at some full-service chains—Chili’s, Applebee’s, Genghis Grill, Buffalo and Buffalo Wild Wings, among others. But if you’re looking to invest in something similar for your operation, keep this cautionary note in mind while shopping: “System integration is a serious consideration. The importance of POS integration cannot be overstated, given that CFPT adopters indicated that integration with other IT systems was the most important issue that they had faced with CFPT,” Kimes and Collier note. “Presumably, integration will become less of a concern in the future, but still the fact that it was identified as the top problem reinforces the fact that operators should be sure that any type of CFPT under consideration is fully integrated with their other IT systems.” You can view the full paper (registration required) here.