Is EMV the game changer for mobile pay?

hand chip credit card

It might get a lot of attention, but at this point mobile pay isn’t super-popular. A number of operators at the FSTEC Conference—a gathering of the industry’s techies hosted by Restaurant Business’s parent Winsight in September in Washington, D.C.—said Apple Pay, Google Wallet and others just haven’t quite caught on. But could that change?

According to Lou Grande, VP of IT for Red Lobster, the answer is yes—and soon.

The reason: EMV. Last week, the much-discussed shift in credit-card liability went into effect. Now, operators without so-called chip-and-dip readers risk being held liable for a breach if an EMV-enabled card is compromised on a traditional mag-stripe-card reader.

Yet despite the shift in liability, most operators still aren’t ready for the new cards. In fact, when Grande asked a room full of restaurant-chain IT folks at FSTEC who was prepared for the switch to chip readers, not a soul raised his hand. A big part of that is the upfront cost to switch to PEDs (PIN entry devices). But that’s not the only reason.

One big hospitality consideration for EMV implementation at quick-service and fast-casual restaurants is speed of service, said Grande. Today’s mag-stripe credit-card readers take only a few seconds to process each card payment. EMV readers, however, add an extra several seconds to read credit cards—an upwards of six to eight more seconds per transaction. And in a world where increased throughput is driving profits, adding multiple seconds per sale is a revenue killer. Just imagine the hold-up in the drive-thru line.

And not just operators have an issue with the added time. Today’s consumers are conditioned to expect fast service; slowness is seen as an inconvenience. So operators such as Grande anticipate consumers taking matters into their own hands, turning to a faster way to pay. “Ewallets will likely be preferred by the customer,” he said.

Its likely, though, that the acceptance of ewallets will first start to grow in the limited-service realm, where speed is a key factor. For casual-dining spots where guests often linger, mobile pay might not catch on quite as fast. But as consumers grow more comfortable whipping out their phones in the drive-thru, expect the leap to be made across the board.


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