7 Pay-at-the-Table Questions & Answers You Can’t Afford to Miss

7 Pay-at-the-Table Questions You Can’t MissThe payment experience is starting to change in the US with the addition of more secure methods. Restaurants are addressing this evolution with the introduction of Pay-at-the-Table payment solutions. With this solution, restaurant servers bring a wireless payment solution to the diner’s table along with the check to process the payment, a method that is very common outside the US, especially in Europe. Diners will then use the terminal to pay with their preferred method of electronic payments, including EMV and mobile wallets such as Apple Pay®. By bringing payment to the consumer at the point of service, the chances of fraud are reduced as the card never leaves the customer’s possession. In a recent webinar on Pay-at-the-Table that I co-hosted, we received a lot of questions regarding this new payment solution. Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions regarding Pay-at-the-Table.

1. Why do you think the US has lagged in Pay-at-the-Table adoption?

The US is one of the last countries to adopt EMV, so prior to the EMV liability shift in October 2015, restaurants did not have a compelling reason to implement a Pay-at-the-Table solution. Now with processors issuing chargebacks to merchants who are not EMV compliant, they are being forced to adapt to the new standards or incur costly fees. New technology has also brought about a change in the way consumers want to pay. With the introduction of mobile wallets, including Apple Pay and Android Pay, servers will not be able to take a customer’s phone back to a POS system to finalize payment. Instead, they will have to bring the payment device to the customer so they can tap their phone to pay.

2. How does the transmission rate of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi affect time to complete EMV transactions?

Consider the following metrics to understand the scope of this impact:

  • The transmission rate of Industrial Bluetooth used by Ingenico is up to 1Mbps (Megabits per second)
  • Wi-Fi transmission rate is up to 1.5Mbps (as a reference, 1Mbps is 125,000 bytes).

Considering the average transaction size is less than 256 bytes, the transmission time on both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled terminals should not be impacted by any type of transaction, including EMV.

3. Since Pay-at-the-Table can be either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled, will the merchant have to have EMV software on their point of sale available for the devices?  

The merchant may not need to have software to specifically handle EMV. If you are using the device in a standalone model, confirm that the processor application running in the device is EMV certified. If your solution is used in a fully integrated or semi-integrated manner, confirm that your POS system has completed EMV certification. If this is not complete or unclear and you need help, we have a network of gateway providers that have already or are actively certifying these devices for EMV. You can learn about the differences between standalone, fully-integrated or semi-integrated payment solutions in this recent webinar.

4. How many devices would an average-sized restaurant require in order to avoid waiting for a terminal to be available?

There are many factors to consider, including the type of business (restaurant, hotel, nightclub, bar, etc.), the number of tables used in your current location and maximum number of credit and debit card transactions performed on the busiest day.

For up to 10 tables on a single floor, a reasonable estimate is one terminal and one charging base. From 11 to 30 tables, you probably need two terminals and one charging base. For more than 30 tables, you most likely need at least three terminals and two charging bases.

5. In a restaurant environment, how does splitting checks work for multiple paying diners?

Today, servers can split up the total bill and provide separate checks to the table, then collect each individual’s card when a table is ready to close out, then go to back to the POS station, and finally close out each receipt individually. However, there are two options for when using a Pay-at-the-Table solution:


With a Pay-at-the-Table solution, the server would select the individual’s check on the device, hand the device over to the customer to swipe/tap/insert their card, add a tip, and confirm the total bill. The device would then be handed back to the server to print a receipt so the customer can sign. Then, the server would pull up the next check and hand the terminal to the next person at the table. The server would continue to follow this process until all individuals at the table had paid for their bill. 


An alternative to this is to take a single check and split it amongst different individuals. In this scenario, the device prompts for a split amount and individual transactions are run for each customer until the check is fully paid.

6. How does tipping work on a Pay-at-the-Table solution?

Today, while paying a bill at a restaurant, the server takes the customer’s credit card to the POS system and returns with the receipt, which includes a line for tip. The customer adds the desired tip amount and signs the receipt. On a Pay-at-the-Table solution, tipping can work in two ways:


Tip adjust works in the same way tipping works today. The only difference is that in this case, the wireless smart terminal prints out the receipt which includes a tip line for the customer to use and sign. The server then adds the tip amount to the bill total manually, as they do today to include the tip as part of the transaction. Using this method first often helps restaurants implement a Pay-at-the-Table solution and improve efficiencies by eliminating the return trip to the point of sale station that’s needed to process the card and print the receipt. In addition, studies show consumers appreciate the card never leaving their sight.


Tip at the time of the sale is used in many countries outside the US. With this method, the customer adds the tip amount to the total bill right on the wireless terminal before paying. By allowing the customer to do this right on the terminal, this solution incorporates the same benefits of tip adjust mentioned above, but also improves upon server efficiency as it eliminates the need to adjust the tip later, which restaurants report being a time-consuming task. The payment solution also reduces merchant liability by enabling the acceptance of EMV chip & PIN, which is expected to become more prevalent in the US over the next two years.

7. Do you expect that all chip cards will eventually require a PIN number, and if so, how will this work with restaurants without a Pay-at-the-Table solution?

We do expect that all EMV cards will eventually require a PIN. Chip & signature was used as a way to easily migrate EMV into the US. Once EMV cards require a PIN number, restaurant owners will be forced to adopt a Pay-at-the-Table solution, as the customer will need to be able to enter their PIN on the terminal at the time of the transaction.

Still have questions on Pay-at-the-Table? Our “Pay-at-the-Table: Bringing Payments to the Consumer” webinar is now available on-demand.

Watch the Recorded Webinar Now.

If you would like to learn how the payment experience changes with Pay-at-the-Table vs traditional payment process in restaurants, check out this infographic.

For any questions we weren’t able to address, submit them on our “Ask an Expert” page and we’ll get back to you ASAP.  

Greg Burch is the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, U.S., Ingenico Group


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