By Paul Manktelow, Strategic New Business Manager at Barclaycard
Fri Oct 12 2018
Fighting to flag down a waiter for the bill can leave a bitter taste at the end of a meal.
We’ve all been there – watching time slipping away as our lunchtime meeting creeps past the hour mark. Barclaycard research published in 2018 found that 36% of diners find waiting for the bill the most frustrating part of a meal, and it may even have an impact on whether they want to come back.
Thankfully, restaurants and bars are focusing on improving payment technology, with the aim of speeding up the process of requesting and paying the bill. This includes the use of tablets, contactless card readers and mobile apps.
According to research published by the CGA in 2018, over a quarter of restaurants (28%) plan to offer payment via app by the end of this year. This can help to improve the customer experience, and the same research suggests that 81% of outlets see quality of customer experience as a key driver for attracting diners.
And with 68% of food and drink outlets focusing on encouraging repeat business, according to the CGA, payment tech can play an important role in making sure that customers don’t lose their appetite for your outlet.
It’s time to settle up and say goodbye to overly-long lunch meetings.
Many bars and high street coffee shops expect customers to line up and pay ahead of service. While people accept they might have to wait a few moments before being served, getting stuck in a long queue is a frustrating experience and in some cases businesses might lose customers who see a long line and decide they’d rather go elsewhere.
Payment tech can be a big help when it comes to cutting down queues, for instance offering customers the option of paying in advance and stopping by to collect it at their convenience. Starbucks is an example of a high street coffee chain that has experimented with this via its app. Customers can get their caffeine fix by ordering in advance and bypassing queues, collecting their drink from the counter whenever they’re ready. It cuts down queues and saves staff the time it would take to process payment.
Contactless cards have also had a significant impact on the amount of time customers take to pay – research by Barclaycard revealed that contactless payments could save retail shoppers 141 million hours by 2021.
In terms of sales there’s a huge benefit to speedier payment tech too: businesses that offer contactless payment have seen sales increase by an average of 30%. In line with the surge in contactless payment technology, there are also examples of business owners going cash-free.
One London café owner interviewed by a UK newspaper said that going cash free last year, after taking inspiration from a visit to Sweden, had “improved our efficiency and even given our profits a welcome boost.”
Another food outlet in Westfield shopping centre in White City, Tossed, opened a cash-free restaurant in 2016 that was equipped with self-service kiosks and took payments only by card, contactless, or digital wallet.
All of these developments in payment technology help cut down queue times, improve customer experience, and ensure that diners don’t start thinking about heading elsewhere.
These days you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to payment.
Payment technology ranges from high-tech tablets, contactless card readers, and credit cards, to gift cards, and a variety of apps that allow customers to pay using their smartphone.
A wide range of these apps are used across the UK including Qkr!, Velocity, Cake, Mycheck, Flypay and Zapper. Payment apps allow diners to pay via a card or a mobile wallet, with many offering the option of splitting the bill and tipping.
The idea behind all of this cutting-edge payment tech? Improved customer experience from the moment diners arrive and want to place an order.
This ties in with the research. The CGA says that 86% of business leaders view ease of ordering as important for customer experience. Improved payment technology allows diners to walk in, effortlessly order their food, and walk out whenever they’re ready - without wrangling with waiters for the bill.
Apps are at the forefront of payment technology in the food and drink sector. They can allow customers to pay (and split) their bill, call waiters and order food. They can, however, be expensive to set up.
Established high street brands can invest the necessary time and resources into developing apps that use technology to improve customer experience.
For example, chain pub Wetherspoons has an app that allows customers to order food and drinks without leaving their table. It isn’t just about making sure everyone pays for their round – it eliminates queues at the bar and makes it faster to place an order.
According to CGA research published in 2018, 18% of outlets offer customers the option of ordering via an app, with 23% planning to implement it. This can be quite tricky, however, as the smartphone app needs to be able to integrate with the kitchen software that gives the chefs the food orders.
As well as ordering, apps can be a good way of ensuring that diners are able to request or pay the bill at their convenience. Almost a quarter (23%) of those surveyed by CGA said payment via an app is something they offer, and 28% plan to offer it by the end of the year.
Chain restaurant Wagamama launched a payment app earlier this year which it says can save diners an average of 12 minutes per meal.
The idea is that diners are given a code which they give to their waiter, and the payment is taken automatically via the app. This eliminates the need for a wait at the end of the meal.
That’s 12 minutes of trying to make eye contact with a waiter that could be put to much better use.
However developing an app that allows these options isn’t for everyone. The cost of development and marketing can outweigh the benefits. It may not make sense if you’ve not got a loyal customer base or a large number of outlets, as it’s unlikely that customers will download an app if they only intend to visit a restaurant once or twice a year.
Partnering with an existing payment app is a good recipe for keeping diners happy. An example of this is Mastercard’s Qkr! app, which allows customers to order directly through the app and is now used by a number of restaurants across the UK.
The chain restaurant Pizza Hut announced that it was rolling out Qkr! earlier this year, giving customers the ability to easily order and pay for food using their phones. In an announcement, Pizza Hut emphasised how the technology helped to improve customer experience, and freed up staff who would otherwise be busy handling payments.
If you’re looking for a way to improve customer experience and improve your payment tech, it’s a great option.
No matter which way you slice it, customers - and staff - will thank you.
So where is payment technology headed?
For starters, dining out is set to more closely resemble ordering food for home delivery via a smartphone. The ability to order, pay for, and review your dining experience via a smartphone is likely to become faster and more fluent.
Barclaycard has already trialled Dine and Dash at Prezzo in London, allowing diners to “check in” with their phone and walk out after eating without worrying about having to request the bill.
While waiters carrying tablets is no longer an unusual sight, it’s possible that there may be more of a shift towards “on demand” consoles already used in some UK fast food outlets. One innovative restaurant in London allows diners to order food, pay their bill, and even play games on touchscreen tables.
Bars and restaurants with tablets for diners are not common in the UK but it’s possible that some may consider taking inspiration from across the pond.
An American restaurant group installed tablets at nearly 2,000 locations across the United States. These allow customers to order food and drinks, as well as request the bill.
Bill-splitting apps are already becoming more widely used in the food technology sphere and beyond, and the rise of the so-called peer-to-peer payment industry means that it’s likely we’ll see more apps in the near future.
This means more options for partnering with payment apps, and improved customer experience for diners.
One thing’s for sure: payment providers will continue to cook up innovative ways to take the hassle out of settling the bill.
Find out how Barclaycard's food & drink payment solutions can improve your business.
 A survey of 195 leading industry figures from the eating and drinking out sector conducted by CGA between 17/01/18 - 05/02/18.