What is pay at the table for restaurants?

Emma Woodward
Freelance Blogger

The restaurant industry has always been tough and post-pandemic challenges haven’t helped. With supply chain and staffing shortages, restaurant merchants have a lot to balance in 2022. 58% of merchants said recruiting and retaining staff is the most challenging factor for business right now, according to a study by the National Restaurant Association.

Merchants need to be on the search for new and creative solutions to current restaurant staffing challenges. Fast-developing restaurant tech can be a helpful aid for understaffed restaurants.

One example is pay-at-table software — a technology that uses QR codes to help customers order and pay at the table from their personal devices. Let’s explore how this tech gives customers independence so staff can focus on other essential tasks.

What is pay at table software?

Pay-at-table software is tech that allows customers to order and pay directly at their table. Also called order and pay technology, some options for pay at table require customer-facing tablets equipped with menu ordering and payment software. Larger chain restaurants like Red Robin and Olive Garden offer this option to make it easier for guests to get what they need and for servers to cover more tables.

Product screen of Bbot's online order and pay at table tech

But there’s a simpler way for smaller restaurants to make pay at table software happen — QR codes. Merchants set up a digital menu and place custom QR codes at tables, bars, or anywhere else they need a little extra coverage. Guests scan that code with their phones and order, start a tab, start a group order, and more. They can place their order and pay whenever they want without flagging down a server.

How pay at table software helps restaurants

Restaurants can use pay-at-table software to their advantage — it acts as a helping hand for existing staff and empowers guests to dictate what they want from their restaurant experience.

Product screen of Olo's online order and payment tech

Staff can rely on pay-at-table to handle some of the more mechanical parts of their job, like  allergy notes and starting tabs, and gives them the space to act as advocates for your venue and upsell. Beyond just giving servers tools to handle their workload, here are three ways you can expect it to help.

Encourage more orders

Product screen of Toast's online order and payment tech

Using order and pay technology creates a unique reaction chain for your guests that mimics larger impulse buying companies like Amazon. When guests are ready to order, they don’t have to wait — they can order (and re-order) as soon as they know what they want.

When customers can act on impulse, they have less time to talk themselves out of that extra order of fries or a third beer. Inevitably, the average check size often sees a boost when guests use order and pay.

Bbot customer Caveat saw a 30% increase in their average check sizes when they welcomed order and pay into their bar.

Higher tips for staff

With payment processing that automatically prompts customers to tip a certain percentage to their waiter, customers often tip higher than they might if they didn’t have the numbers right in front of them. The tip entry is customizable, making it simpler to offer both average recommendations with higher percentage intervals. 

These tip recommendations boost the average amount of tips your servers get each night. Texas Roadhouse designed their own pay at the table system and saw an increase in tips. Cobble & Co, another Bbot customer, watched tips double from industry standard when they brought QR codes to the table.

Product screen of Presto's order and pay at table software

Reduce labor costs

Labor levels continue to be low across the country — everyone and their mother is understaffed right now. Pay-at-table technology can supplement your current staff and reduce burnout as they work to cover tables and gaps.

You might even be able to increase wages for a smaller staff while still keeping costs for overall labor lower than the average restaurant. Remember Cobble & Co from earlier? They used the money they saved on hiring more staff to pay front and back of house more, resulting in 0 employee turnover since opening.

Pay at table software options

Ready to sign up for pay at table tech in your restaurant? There are a lot of options available, so you’ll want to do your research in the different features and capacities of the software. (Or you can skip the hours of research and download our free list.) 

Product screen of NCR Aloha's order and pay at table software
NCR Aloha

Some questions to ask as you look:

  • Can customers use Apple Pay and Google Pay?
  • Does the software provide digital receipts?
  • Can customers split checks?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What is the setup process?
  • Does the pay at table software require a specific POS system?
  • Do they have integrations with other technology that will be helpful?

As you shop, consider options from these companies: 

  • Bbot: With simple and easy solutions for guest experiences on our mind at all times at Bbot, we’ve developed a better, more personalized mobile ordering experience. Using the Bbot pay at table software, merchants can create menus that fit seamlessly with their brand, and retain customer payment info for future transactions. Plus, we’ve got options for multi-vendor menus to support food halls. 
  • Toast: Toast order and pay at the table offering is called Toast Mobile Order & Pay. The service allows guests to order on their own from their table and automatically features recommended upsells as they check out. However, guests can only check out with Apple Pay in some cases, and Google Pay is not an option through the Toast order and pay at the table software. 
Product screen of Square's online order and payment tech
  • Square: Square’s offering for pay at table costs $0 to set up. Merchants pay a percentage when they make a sale. Restaurants must set up their menu on the Square server and then customers can order on their phones and include any notes they have for their order. 
Product screen of Ready's online order and pay
  • Ready: Equipped with the ability to accept credit card payments and both Google Pay and Apple Pay, Ready provides contactless ordering options that can be used in-store and for delivery and takeout.
  • Presto: Presto provides pay at table options through their tablet technology. Unlike QR-code ordering they provide tablets that can be placed at each table where customers can input their orders and pay themselves.They support all of the current payment options including NFC payment like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.
  • NCR: Aloha is the NCR pay at the table option. Seamlessly integrated as a part of NCR Aloha POS system, this NCR pay at the table software allows customers the ability to have a contactless dining experience as they peruse the full restaurant menu on their phones. 
  • Olo: One of the early players in digital ordering, Olo order and pay at the table includes multiple direct ordering options. Olo Pay boasts powerful fraud protection and PCI compliance. 

While these aren’t the only pay at table software options available to merchants, they are some of the big players. If you’re ready to implement this type of ordering for your restaurant, take time researching your options and talking to different teams

The bottom line

Pay at table software is a helpful tech solution for restaurant owners. Providing the opportunity for guests to order and pay themselves allows restaurant staff to spend more time focusing on quality service in other areas and gives merchants a better bottom line.

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