We can learn a thing or two from restaurants abroad. And we’re not just talking about more exotic dishes and limited edition Starbucks drinks.

Pay-At-Table solutions have gradually seen more adoption by US restaurants in recent years. But tableside payments have existed in Europe, Canada, and other countries for much longer. Using wireless terminals or mobile POS devices to pay at the table in Europe has been the norm since the early 2000s. This method minimizes fraud and results in more efficient service. These successful use cases for pay-at-table solutions internationally prove that they can be successfully adopted by restaurants in the US, and with great benefits.

What Are Tableside Payments?

At full service restaurants in the US, guests are accustomed to giving up their credit cards to servers to process the payment at the back of house. With tableside payments, servers bring the check, as well as a wireless POS solution to the table to process payment. The payment card never leaves the guests’ hands, and it also allows them the opportunity to use their debit card. Tableside payments are commonplace in Europe and Canada.

Why the Difference?

Whether payments are conducted at the back of house versus at the table is linked to the payment verification method. With traditional magnetic stripe payments, the server swipes the card at the POS terminal and returns it to the guest, who must provide a signature on the receipt.

Merchants who have migrated to EMV technology still have the option of two verification methods: chip and signature versus chip and PIN. In the case of EMV with chip and signature verification, the process is no different from magstripe payments: the server brings the card to the POS terminal to process the payment, and the guest only needs to provide a signature on a receipt afterwards. However, with chip and PIN, the guest must enter their PIN as the server inserts the card into the payment processor, meaning that the payment must occur tableside where the guest is.

Tableside Payments in Europe

In Europe, the majority of vendors have successfully rolled out EMV. If you’ve visited Europe in the past two decades, you’ll remember how the server brought a wireless POS device out to you to process your payment. The system makes perfect sense for the majority of European guests. From July 2018 to June 2019, a whopping 98.76% of card-present transactions were EMV chip based in western Europe. European banks also chose to make chip and PIN their new standard, necessitating the use of mobile POS devices. And for good reason too. Fraud rates were significantly reduced following migration to EMV in Europe.

Tableside Payments in Canada

Pay-at-table solutions became the standard in Canada after it began migrating to EMV in 2006 in order to combat the rising rate of card fraud during the early 2000s. As a result, card-present fraud decreased by 30% from 2008 to 2010. 

In addition, guests could enjoy more convenience with the payment process, while restaurants experienced less chargebacks from fraudulent transactions. It turns out this trend also has benefits for restaurant operations as well. With the working-age population in Europe and Canada steadily declining and labor costs rising, restaurants can make up for these downfalls with pay-at-table technology. A leaner team of servers can make fewer trips to the POS terminal and end up serving more tables.

What’s Next for the US?

With rising rates of card fraud in the US and specifically in the restaurant industry, Pay At Table becomes a more attractive option than ever. Implementation of Pay At Table also results in faster table turns and improved loyalty program enrollments, which led to Denny’s decision to select Presto as its pay-at-table solution. Pay-at-table technology doesn’t just make sense in terms of convenience and security. It’s there to fill in operational gaps and enhance the guest experience, allowing a restaurant to run more efficiently at scale.