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Why Your Pizzeria Should Offer a Pay-at-the-Table Option

The technology can free up employees while enhancing customer satisfaction—among other surprising benefits.

  • Thanks to COVID-19, today’s restaurant customers are more interested than ever in pay-at-the-table technology.
  • Pizzerias and fast-casual restaurants are ideal for order-at-the-table technology, since guests often pop in for a quick slice on a tight schedule.

By Tracy Morin

From the self-checkout line in the grocery store to check-in kiosks at the airport, modern customers are now used to helping themselves when they interact with a variety of businesses—including a growing number of restaurants. “With self-pay technology and kiosks, companies in many industries have been teaching us all to be cashiers and putting us to work,” says Aaron Allen, chief strategist at Aaron Allen Associates in Chicago. “But today’s customers also like getting what they want, on their own terms.”

At the same time, Allen adds, COVID-19 has had its own influences on the state of restaurant affairs that help pave the way for wider adoption of pay-at-the-table technology: employee shortages, the resurgence of QR codes, and the acceleration of contactless payments. With all of these trends converging, it’s no wonder that these options are more attractive than ever.


Tapping Tech at the Table

Steven Higgins, CEO of Glendale, Colorado-based MobileWare, notes that IoT devices (a category that includes everything from “smart” appliances to virtual assistants) are helping make it possible for restaurants and their customers to utilize mobile technology at the table—to everyone’s benefit. “Letting clients order at the table is a huge trend that increases convenience to the customer and alleviates the burden of some tasks on the restaurant staff,” Higgins explains. “The ability to place an order or pay a check without waiting for busy servers provides an opportunity for waitstaff to handle additional tables without reducing the customer’s satisfaction.”

“For many restaurant concepts, order-at-the-table technology can make a better dining experience for both guests and restaurant staff,” agrees Angela Leet, CEO of QSR Automations in Louisville, Kentucky. “With order-at-the-table tech, you’re essentially taking tasks that used to be handled by a server and putting it in the hands of the guest—which allows you to quickly reduce labor costs in the front of house.”

“With self-pay technology and kiosks, companies…have been teaching us all to be cashiers and putting us to work. But today’s customers also like getting what they want, on their own terms.”
— Aaron Allen, Aaron Allen Associates

Leet adds that pizzerias and fast-casual restaurants are the ideal setting for order-at-the-table technology, since these guests may be popping in for a quick slice on a tight schedule, especially during lunch hours. “Being able to order directly from the table without waiting on a busy server meets the guests’ needs faster and more efficiently,” she explains. “For so many restaurants that are facing a labor shortage, order-at-the-table technology reduces the need for dedicated waitstaff, so restaurants can serve more guests with less overhead. Additionally, capturing a table’s order digitally and sending it directly to the kitchen drastically reduces the possibility for human error, ensuring guests get exactly what they want, every time.”

Related: Does your pizzeria’s POS system really deliver?

Allen, for his part, predicts so much promise in this technology that he personally invested in a new Spain-based company called Yumminn, which shares some interesting stats on the benefits of easy pay-at-the-table options. For example, customers saved 13 minutes on average from their dining time spent, thus speeding up restaurants’ turnover, which increased by 6%. “You’d think that customers would tip less when they have to do some of the work, but they don’t—they tend to tip more,” Allen says. They may also spend more: Yumminn reports an average ticket boost of 12%, while servers saw a 55% increase in tips (note that in Europe, tipping etiquette and percentages differ greatly from the United States, but the stat still points to positive results). “This technology is very compelling, because it’s something the industry is looking for, and something consumers gravitate toward as well,” Allen says. “We’ve seen this trend grow at a triple-digit pace, and I believe that trajectory will continue.”

The resurgence of QR codes has helped make pay-at-the-table ordering easier than ever. Photo courtesy Yumminn
Eyeing the Investment 

Higgins notes there are different options for making it easier to pay at the table, including solutions like mobile POS, which connects operators to their customers via the cellular network, whether they are at an outdoor table or seated inside. Alternatively, self-service sales units for the tabletop allow guests to place their orders and pay their checks from the convenience of the table without the need for service staff to help them.

Allen, meanwhile, points to solutions that use QR codes so that owners don’t need to invest in tabletop units, customers don’t need to download yet another app, and tabletops are kept free of clunky hardware. “Nowadays, consumers want as few clicks as possible, and they also want the ability to achieve functions like splitting the bill,” Allen adds. “And restaurants know how cumbersome and difficult it can be to split checks among a large party. The best tech makes for a frictionless transaction and accepts multiple forms of payment.”

This may include digital wallets, cryptocurrency, services like Venmo and PayPal, and, of course, “old-fashioned” options like credit cards. Now there is even facial recognition technology to verify payments, so tech possibilities, as always, continue to evolve. “A lot of people have their phones with them, even when they don’t have their wallet,” Allen notes. “So many people are cashless now—92% of all transactions in restaurants are now digital payments!”

Related: Using your POS system to control food costs

Different options will also require different levels of investment, but the industry’s most enthusiastic proponents believe it’s worth it. “Investing in technology is exactly that—an investment—but it’s important to find technology partners that integrate seamlessly with your existing tech,” Leet says. “This allows you to get exactly what you need, and nothing that you don’t. Making an upgrade doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch.”

However, Leet adds that when a restaurant isn’t relying on servers to take orders and relay them back to the kitchen, there’s an obvious cost savings over time. “Some of our customers report that the added benefit of reducing the possibility for human error in the ordering process also reduces food waste from incorrect orders,” she says. “Increased customer satisfaction also reduces stress on restaurant employees, which can contribute to employee retention. The primary goal is to create calmer, happier kitchens, and investing in technology is a wonderful way to achieve that goal.”

“Letting clients order at the table is a huge trend that increases convenience to the customer and alleviates the burden of some tasks on the restaurant staff.”
— Steven Higgins, MobileWare


Making the Shift

If you’re thinking of making the shift to order- and pay-at-the-table tech, shop around and ask questions to find the right solution for you. Leet believes that, as every restaurant is unique, your technology should be, too. “Don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all platform,” she advises. “Instead, look for a partner that will work with you and some of your existing tech partners to find creative solutions to your business problems. Also, anytime you are looking to integrate new technology, it’s important to partner with companies that prioritize customer service, including live support for any tech issues that may arise. It’s the difference between being a software provider and a solutions provider.”

On the customer relations side of the equation, it may take a minute to shift customers from full-serve operations to partially self-serve. But old-school diners can still choose to deal directly with the server if they’re tech-averse. Plus, Allen notes that with millions of less workers now employed in the foodservice industry, while sales are returning to pre-COVID levels, something’s gotta give—and this technology can help bridge the gap. “I know a lot of pizzeria operators are tired of being hit over the head with technology, but our company did a study over a 10-year stretch and saw that the former ratio of 60% independents to 40% chains actually reversed—now to 40% mom-and-pops, but with chains doing twice the volume, on average,” Allen says. “The amount they’re making over independents is largely due to their digital programs. If you have an opportunity to make twice the revenue by using technology, it’s time to get with the program!”  

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor and the editor of