What are contactless payments, and how can they benefit your restaurant?

Published April 20, 2022

The pandemic has triggered a slew of changes over the past two years, which have forced restaurants to adopt operational changes such as instituting curbside pickup or raising sanitation and cleaning standards.

Many of these pivots will live on well beyond the pandemic because they are undeniable improvements. One of these innovations is the acceleration of contactless payments.

What are contactless payments?


In its simplest form, contactless payments are transactions that minimize the barriers to completing payments. These techniques are meant to be flexible and adaptable, thanks to new technology. They’re designed to make everybody’s life easier — the customer’s, the cashier’s, and even the restaurant owner’s.  There are several reasons why restaurateurs have been working toward making frictionless payment the new industry norm.

First, it’s the safest way to transfer money. Physical cash, as well as paper checks, can be less sanitary, being passed from hand to hand (the average bill changes owners anywhere between 75 and 110 times per year). Even debit and credit cards pose an elevated risk of transmitting germs from one person to another due to their constant use. The move to a cashless society is an inevitable one.

Second, it’s convenient. In addition to prioritizing health more than ever before, consumers have become increasingly fond of minimizing social engagement throughout their daily routine. Things like working remotely, watching on-demand movies instead of going to the theater and even having virtual doctor visits are now the status quo, so it’s only natural that food and drink pick-ups would follow suit.

Finally, going contactless is an appropriate pivot when one considers evolution of dining at restaurants as a whole, regardless of business model. Just look at the new ways you can enjoy a meal at a restaurant. It’s ubiquitous for restaurants to have an online order e-commerce feature. Plus, many have instituted some form of curbside pickup or takeout to redefine the experience for a customer no matter their level of comfort with dining out. In many ways, the entire transaction concept has undergone a significant transformation. With such a modular approach to the ordering and fulfillment process, it’s only logical that payment follows suit.

Types of contactless payments and their benefits


Now that we’ve covered the definition of and reasoning behind contactless payment, let’s take a look at its different applications and the variety of formats it takes on. From there, we’ll assess the benefits to all parties of the purchase.

Smartphone apps


Mobile apps have become non-negotiable in the restaurant world. There's a whole ecosystem of apps you can use to get your food with the touch of a button.

First, there are third-party delivery apps and technology providers, such as Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Postmates. They can be simple to get started for a restaurant. All you have to do is get in touch with a representative and you’ll be able to receive orders for a delivery driver to pick up and bring meal to your customers.

Then, there are apps specific to your own restaurant. This is a much bigger buildout process that often requires new technology, but it keeps the whole ordering and payment process completely in house, which is undoubtedly a benefit. Several large brands have their own apps, like Starbucks and Chick-fil-A.

The biggest business development benefit of using a smartphone app is that it saves customer payment information while reducing fraud. As long as customers can access their accounts, they can input their orders in a matter of seconds. 

Some apps even offer loyalty incentives, like points for each purchase a customer makes that go towards a free or discounted item. Programs like these strengthen brand loyalty while encouraging repeat business.

Mobile wallets


Mobile — or digital — wallets, are another technological innovation that have enabled greater adoption of contactless payment. A mobile wallet, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, is a feature on a smartphone that allows the user to save their bank account info, debit card, credit card, ID and other physical cards digitally on their phone so they don’t need to carry a cumbersome wallet around. On a run and don’t have your wallet handy? As long as the coffee shop has the proper tech setup, you can grab that latte thanks to digital wallets and mobile payments.

Related: Benefits and tips to promote your restaurant mobile ordering app

QR codes mobile payment


Another form of offering contactless payment options is leveraging QR codes. They allow customers to pay from their own devices without needing to hand over a  physical card.

Generally customers can scan QR codes at the table or on a receipt. The codes guide them directly to a URL on their phone's browser, allowing them to order and sometimes even pay directly from their mobile device.

What are the benefits of offering contactless payment options?


There are several key benefits of adopting methods of contactless payment at your restaurant.

They expedite the process


It takes far less time to accept and process contactless payments than it does to process traditional payments. This lets you serve more customers in the same amount of time, ultimately increasing your restaurant’s revenue.

They’re easier for the customer


Customers look for convenience, speed and flexibility. Allowing customers the choice to use their preferred method of paying helps improve the customer experience. It also simplifies the transaction process, as the customer can opt to use a personal device rather than digging out their wallet or counting cash.  

Related: The best new restaurant technologies you'll need in 2022

They lower barriers to purchasing


In all customer-facing business models, the name of the game is to increase the amount of conversions you get on a daily basis. By making the payment process easier and quicker, you’re immediately reducing the number of barriers that your old and new customers face before buying something. By limiting the necessary steps, you’re limiting barriers to the checkout process and even encouraging cross-selling due to ease of use.

They’re safer for the customer


As alluded to earlier, customers are prioritizing their health and safety more than ever before. By offering a contactless alternative, you’re lowering their odds of transmitting or receiving germs that may cause harm to them or their loved ones.

Some innovations can seem challenging. Contactless payments are not. By making a simple investment in the proper hardware like contactless card readers, or software like digital wallets, Apple Pay and Google Pay, you can take your restaurant to the next level. Contactless payments help you increase your margins per transaction, increase your traffic, build customer loyalty and reduce stress for your staff.

Are you ready to take control of the payments landscape and make the leap to contactless payments?

When your restaurant is backed by NCR, it's simple to stay out front.

Whether that's literally up front with your customers, or out front of your competition.

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