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Restaurant Technology Allows Patrons To Pay At The Table

The Associated Press produced an article that focused on “pay at the table” — an innovation that has achieved some traction in Europe but is virtually unknown in the United States:

It’s become routine for customers to swipe their credit or debit cards at consoles in fast-food joints, gas stations and grocery stores. So why do we still hand over the plastic at sit-down restaurants?

Pay-at-the-table systems are popular in Europe and other parts of the world, but they haven’t yet caught on in the U.S., largely because equipment makers haven’t been able to point to a reason why restaurateurs should invest in the gear.

Manufacturers now see an opportunity. A rise in the number of ‘skimming’ scams in which waiters use hand-held computers to quietly record customers’ credit card information and sell it is creating a sense of urgency. So is an increased push by managers to speed the flow of diners during peak hours.

‘Restaurants are the last holdout where you still give up your credit card. That’s why we think this is the next logical step,’ said Paul Rasori, VeriFone Inc.’s vice president of marketing.

Basically the idea is that when the waiter brings a check, he also brings a machine where the customer can scan his own card and pay the bill.

The future is clearly going this way. It is more secure, turns tables faster and is in line with the way consumers pay for other things.

Perhaps of greater interest, though, is whether equipping restaurants with Wi-Fi networks necessary to use these systems won’t open the door for other tableside uses. Why couldn’t menus be on computer and be able to deliver much deeper nutritional information?

Why couldn’t consumers explain their situation — diabetic, looking to lose weight, etc., mention favorite foods and ask the computer to suggest a menu for tonight?

Remember the Internet was built to help the defense department. All the innovations since are a byproduct. No reason to think we can’t have a similar experience in restaurants across the country.

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