Ending on a high note; how not to leave a bad taste

The meal was delicious, and complemented perfectly by the wine. The ambience delightful. The coffee was hot, rich and flavoursome, and the staff polite and attentive. The taxi is outside, the rain has stopped, and all is well with the world. ‘Can we have the bill, when you’re ready?’

That, it should go without saying, means ‘Promptly. Please.’

Fifteen finger-tapping minutes later, and the warm glow is rapidly cooling, as the staff wrestle over the sole functioning EPOS terminal. Frustrated looks are shared between tables. The glowing online review you’d composed, laden with appreciation, is frantically rewriting itself in your head. Those five elusive stars, hard-won with flawless cuisine and warm hospitality, are falling to the floor one by one, like dying leaves.

The importance of finishing on a high

From the customers’ side, the scenario above may be regarded as something of a ‘first-world’ problem. But it’s potentially a matter of critical importance in the unforgiving world of Tripadvisor and Booking.com. Do everything perfectly, and rest assured that the imperfect will stand out. And as the final act of the evening, with no further opportunities for redemption, messing up the bill will, fairly or unfairly, be the defining memory of the experience. Worse still, it may delay the next seating, meaning slower table turnover, and the customer experience beginning on the back foot.

Walking the cost / value tightrope

Like all businesses, running a restaurant is a fine balance, usually with tight margins and fierce competition. Most decisions, including investing in a modern and frictionless payment system, are reached through some form of cost-benefit analysis, and the tricky process of reconciling a clear ‘bottom line’ figure with the more opaque measure of customer experience. Restaurants are also an excellent example of the importance of understanding the concept of a hierarchy of needs within the service sector. For example, offering the best food that money can buy will count for nothing if the bathrooms are unclean, or the heating isn’t working. Or if diners are kept waiting for their bill. Getting the basics right is essential, and is a good place to start in terms of optimising performance, and the all-important metric of table turnover. So a quick checklist has been compiled below:

Floor plan / layout

In terms of overall capacity, as a general rule around 60% of floorspace should be allocated to seating, with around fifteen square feet per guest. However the layout has far more permutations and must accommodate a multitude of requirements from the overall flow to the ability to reconfigure tables to seat larger parties without adversely affecting other guests. It is important that all diners are able to enjoy the décor and immerse themselves in the dining experience, even at the busiest times.

Table Management and Ordering systems

The most advanced systems now provide a huge range of facilities, including the management of loyalty and marketing programmes, the ability to manage waitlists, assess staff performance, customise floor plans, and even offer real-time information on menu availability.

Payment efficiency

A critical part of the service experience, payment is rarely the high point of an evening out. However, as the so-called Experience Economy gathers pace, so the importance of a slick and frictionless payment experience increases. Not only will a fast, flexible and stable platform allow diners to vacate their table at the moment they are ready, but it also prevents the knock-on effect of other customers’ seating times being delayed.

Flexibility

The payments industry has been a hot bed of creativity and investment in recent years, and offers an ever-wider selection of products and services. It’s important to accept as many payment methods as possible, including payment wallets. Recent data has revealed that acceptance of a broad selection of payments is extremely important in creating a perception of a modern and forward thinking establishment.

Value-adding services

The best payment systems are designed ‘customer first’, and do far more than simply allow diners to settle up. They can easily cater for common scenarios such as tipping, or tables wishing to split the bill. A key feature not only for delivering a frictionless customer experience, but also for enabling efficient table turnover, is the ability to unify the process of requesting, receiving and paying the bill, thus preventing the unhappy scenario described at the beginning of this article. Sagepay’s Pay@Table does exactly this, and in doing so removes the need for service staff to take an additional, and unnecessary trip back to the till. Each terminal operates independently, meaning that in the event of one failing, the others are unaffected. And they even operate in offline mode if connectivity is temporarily interrupted.

Oracle integration

Integration with Oracle is simple and Sage Pay offer full support to get you up and running. In brief, it works like this. Pay@Table and the Oracle Payment Interface communicate directly over the merchants’ local network—whether wired or wireless—through a secure HTTPS connection. The on-premise Oracle Payment Interface service in turn connects to the POS system. Oracle Payment Interface handles the hand-held terminal mapping list and sends requests from the POS workstation to the correct hand-held terminal and vice-versa. Staff will use the hand-held terminal to query the POS (through Oracle Payment Interface) for the amount to be paid for a given table. After the card payment is handled by the hand-held terminal, the payment is posted back to the POS which then updates the check information. Easy, simple and reliable.

In conclusion

Running a great restaurant will always be a fine balance of science and art. And whilst it’s almost impossible to second-guess the next big food trend, a stable and reliable payment platform will always ensure that the visit is remembered for all the right reasons, and allow staff to devote their full attention to the guests, and hopefully earn an extra tip or two.

For more information on how Sagepay is helping restaurants to stand out from the competition, contact us at 01914795977 or visit us at Sagepay.co.uk/Midmarket