An EMV Education: How educating your restaurant staff can minimize operational slowdowns

By : Andy Sirmon

In our last post, we identified the ways EMV adoption can cause a slowdown for your restaurant’s operations. EMV’s chip card technology does provide a safer way for consumers to pay, but it also promises to affect your restaurant’s speed-of-service and guest experience. Let’s now focus on how you can best prepare for and minimize the impacts of EMV adoption in your restaurant. One important way is through educating your staff.


Providing your staff an end-to-end EMV education can limit the operational impact felt from EMV technology. Furthermore, equipping your staff to aid your customers through the transition to new chip cards helps your restaurant maintain its quality customer experience.


However, staff must first understand not all EMV-chip cards are alike. In fact, EMV cards differ based on the type of verification required: either PIN or signature. In a previous post we discussed understanding chip-and-PIN vs. chip-and-signature. While appearing identical, the cards behave differently during the transaction process. Understanding first how EMV cards differ from mag-stripe cards, and then how chip-and-PIN cards differ from chip-and-sig cards will help your staff minimize any operational slowdowns accompanying EMV implementation.


Educating Your Staff on EMV


Having a successful transition to the new standard is not just about purchasing a new EMV reader. Educating your staff to be knowledgeable and helpful about the new chip card standards will ensure a smooth adoption for both you and your customers. It’s particularly important to give your entire team a chance at hands-on training with the actual equipment before juggling tables, plates, orders, and transactions all at once. Familiarity with both the cards themselves and the new payment terminal devices will go a long way toward ensuring a positive experience for all involved.

  1. Know what the EMV chip looks like.

    EMV-Staff-Training-chip-card-imageBeing able to recognize an EMV-chip card at a glance is probably the most critical thing your staff can learn. Especially on the outset of transitioning to EMV — when so many consumers will be moving from cards with magnetic stripes to those with chips — it will be important to spot the chip right away to start every transaction off on the right foot and make the process as efficient as possible. Train your staff to identify the cards at the outset. If it’s a mag-stripe card, the card will be swiped as normal; EMV terminals will still accept mag-stripe cards. If it’s a chip card, your staff will need to know when to insert the card and when to take it out, and be prepared to help your guests with the same.


  2. Do you insert or swipe the card?

  3. With each EMV transaction taking around 15-20 seconds longer than magnetic-strip transactions, the slowdown can strike before you know it. For quick service operators, many of their customers may fumble with their new EMV chip cards, either not knowing where to “dip” the card or removing the card before the transaction is complete. If the customer takes the card out before the transaction is completed, then the whole process starts over again. Each misfired transaction further adds to that lengthy customer queue. Educated staff must be available to display the proper use of the EMV cards to prevent further slowdown.


    Transaction times will impact table service operators as well. Cards will no longer be able to be swiped in parallel, as has been the case with older magnetic stripe cards, so each check will now take longer to process. Additionally, if using wireless pay-at-table devices, staff will need to help guests use those devices, and help them identify whether they need to swipe the card (if it’s a magnetic stripe card) or dip it (if it’s a new chip card) and where to do so on the device.


    Ultimately, whether for quick service or table service, staff members should take the opportunity to emphasize that the longer transaction times result in a safer way for guests to pay, ideally staving off any frustration as a result of the longer processing times.

  4. Will the purchase be verified with a PIN or a signature?

  5. It’s important for your staff to understand that there are two types of chip card standards – chip and signature and chip and PIN - and it will not be immediately apparent to your staff which one is which. The vast majority of new chip cards being issued in the U.S. are chip and signature, meaning that the customer will sign a receipt to verify the purchase as they’ve been accustomed to with older magnetic stripe cards. However, there will be cards in circulation – mostly from guests traveling internationally – that will require the guest to enter a PIN at the payment terminal device to verify the transaction. Unfortunately, your staff won’t know when a card will require a PIN unless either the guest notifies them or until the card is “dipped” into the payment terminal device. Make sure your staff knows what to do in the event a PIN is required, and also think of how you can make it easy for your guests to access a payment terminal device to enter their PIN should they be required to do so. This is one reason why table service operators should strongly consider wireless pay-at-table devices if implementing EMV in their restaurant.


  6.  Be prepared to help your guests.
  7. The truth is that this change to EMV-enabled credit and debit cards isn’t just going to be an adjustment for your employees. It’s quite possible that most of the guests you serve over the next few months will have only recently received an EMV-chip card, and many of those may be using it for the first time with you. Training your employees to be patient with the learning curve on the customer side is going to be critical not just for successful transactions, but also to maintain your establishment’s reputation as a welcoming and comforting place to eat, relax, and return to again and again.


    Making sure guests are comfortable using your new EMV technology will go a long way towards removing any friction they may feel with this new way to pay. If you’re using wireless payment terminals at the table, your staff should be trained on how these devices work and be prepared to help customers use them when they need to pay. Chip-and-PIN cards provide an extra nuance, as the guests who have these cards will also have to finalize payment totals and include their tip before entering their PIN and completing the transaction. Therefore, making sure your staff remains both flexible and helpful with guests during the payment process remains key.


    Next Steps for Education


    By educating floor staff on the ins-and-outs of EMV transactions, restaurant operators can help soften the operational slowdown set to accompany EMV adoption. However, preparedness doesn’t stop there, as staff education is only half of the equation. The other half, educating your customers, remains just as important. Be on the lookout for our next post, which will walk you through the process for properly educating your customers, minimizing frustration from the transition and, hopefully, minimizing the slowdown itself.



Andy Sirmon

NCR Hospitality

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Andy is a passionate marketer dedicated to helping make every day easier for restaurant operators. Here, Andy shares his insights on the restaurant industry and how disruptive innovation is transforming the way restaurants do business.