Pass The Check: Masterpass Deploys At Restaurants

Smartphones at the dinner table? Bruno Degiovanni, VP of digital payments Western Europe at Mastercard, is against it – and as an Italian, he’s not alone.

“It’s much better to have eye contact or conversation with your friends or partner during the meal,” Degiovanni said, though he admits that a device can be useful for keeping kids entertained at the table.

However, there’s a time and a place for everything. According to Degiovanni, that time is at the end of the meal, when guests are done eating and ready to leave the restaurant, but must first wait for an employee to deliver the check and process their payment.

On average, Degiovanni said that the time between customers asking for the bill and completing the payment is 12 minutes. A waiter either has to bring the payment card to the point of sale (POS) terminal, or bring the terminal (if it’s mobile) to the table. Plus, a paper receipt must be printed and delivered – even though that receipt is likely to be thrown out within five minutes of being produced.

That’s time wasted, Degiovanni says – for everyone involved. Yet there’s a great tool in almost every customer’s pocket that restaurants could be leveraging to make better use of that time, and get customers on their way when they’re ready to do so.

“When you want to leave, you want to leave. Your desire is to be out of the restaurant as quickly as possible,” he said. Meanwhile, “It’s wasted money and time for the restaurant, because that customer isn’t going to spend anything else. Clearing the table quickly is also in the best interest of the restaurant.”

Degiovanni said this is why Mastercard is partnering with various restaurants in Italy to power payments from the table as soon as customers are done – it’s all right there on their mobile devices. Eataly is the latest such partnership, joining the ranks of Roadhouse Grill and Rossopomodoro – as well as Pizza Hut and Wagamama in the U.K., where Mastercard has additional pay-from-the-table options to offer.

How It Works

Degiovanni said there are two models leveraging Masterpass, the digital wallet service from Mastercard that allows consumers to shop online, in-app and in-store from a single account – customers just enter payment credentials once to securely charge the same account each time they use it.

The first is a general-purpose mobile app called Qkr! that is being used in 10 global markets, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Singapore and South Africa for applications as varied as parking, fuel and paying for school lunches.

In a restaurant, Qkr! can allow customers to add items to their order without calling the waiter back over – for instance, if they need to refill a drink. This, said Degiovanni, can drive efficiency without sacrificing the personal touch of being waited on, since the waiter still initiates the experience by taking the order up-front. It’s a combination of traditional and digital ordering that has, he said, worked well in the markets where it’s deployed.

However, every market is unique, and Degiovanni said this model was not the right one for Italy.

Instead, Mastercard found that Italian restaurants wanted to customize their own apps with a user interface completely dictated by the restaurant. Masterpass is incorporated purely as a means of completing payments, making it less complex for Mastercard to offer, but much more complex and intensive on the restaurants’ side.

When customers complete their payment directly on the Eataly Pay app or any of the Masterpass-powered apps, Degiovanni said they can collect and redeem loyalty points as part of the experience, split the bill, add a tip and receive an electronic receipt rather than waiting for a paper one to print.

Customer Experience

There’s an industry-wide push to create the best possible customer experience, and Mastercard’s goal is no different with Eataly Pay. Customers love efficiency, said Degiovanni, and the Masterpass apps let restaurant servers focus their time on what really matters.

With Qkr!, customers have the added opportunity to take control of their own order by adding items as they want them, and Degiovanni noted that both models create opportunities for upselling and cross-selling, as well as loyalty programs.

Even without a loyalty program attached to it, Degiovanni said an app like this can help restaurants inspire loyalty purely by delivering an excellent customer experience that makes guests want to dine there again.

“Compared to those who do nothing with digital,” said Degiovanni, “this is an opportunity to be preferred by customers who want to have lunch quickly – perhaps because it’s a working lunch, or for many different reasons.”

But, one might ask, what if a customer doesn’t have the app? Couldn’t that potentially create a confusing and friction-filled experience?

Degiovanni said Eataly doesn’t expect customers to walk in with its app already downloaded, since it’s a bespoke app created just for that establishment. Therefore, there’s ample signage that walks customers through the enrollment process, making it possible for customers of varying degrees of tech literacy to sign up without too much difficulty.

Guiding people through that process has been a point of focus at each of the Italian restaurants where Masterpass is deployed, Degiovanni said.

Of course, customers who don’t have smart devices or who prefer to pay with paper or plastic can still do so, Degiovanni said; it is “a beautiful way to pay” and still very secure.

Tech Trajectory

Digital is expanding in all areas, and restaurants are not alone in their desire to leverage new technologies. Degiovanni noted that 87 percent of restaurateurs believe tech can help attract more customers, and that’s true even for establishments that may appear to be more traditional.

Customers are getting used to doing things via mobile app or through a combination of physical and digital, he said, and restaurants aren’t the only place where it’s happening: Masterpass is now letting supermarket customers scan products as they shop and then exit the store, with the payment happening invisibly.

Over time, the roles of traditional and digital payments may even flip-flop. Today, digital is an added functionality on top of Mastercard’s core business of providing a plastic payments card, said Degiovanni – but it wouldn’t surprise him to wake up one day to find it’s the other way around.

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