Shift4 pushes free terminals—again—at restaurants

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Shift4 Payments is giving away free payment terminals to restaurants again, but this time it's using a cloud-based approach with richer marketing tools, including links to social media.

The Allentown, Pa.-based company made a splash several years ago by giving merchants the Harbortouch payments platform at no charge, but later reversed course.

Now Shift4 Payments hopes to prod changes in the status quo at fine-dining restaurants with SkyTab, a new pay-at-the-table solution it’s launching this month, which will be free to restaurants that agree to adopt the company’s payment processing services.

Fine-dining restaurants are among the few merchant categories that saw little to no disruption in the checkout process from the U.S. EMV migration, with most waiters still running transactions away from the table, returning with a check to receive their tip.

A chunk of restaurants — particularly at airports and other locations where checkout speed is crucial — adopted pay-at-the-table devices, but most establishments with table service are still using the traditional approach.

The hand-held SkyTab device connects to the cloud and is designed to speed up the checkout process by freeing waiters from one central cash register zone so they make fewer trips to the table, and it includes various marketing tools to enhance restaurant services, according to a recent press release.

Waiters may leave the SkyTab terminal at the table at the conclusion of a meal, enabling diners to add a tip and insert or tap their cards to pay, with the option to get an email or printed receipt, and sign up for loyalty programs, the release said.

The SkyTab system also connects to a restaurant’s social media profiles to streamline marketing programs and provide feedback for restaurant review sites.

Shift4 said SkyTab integrates with common restaurant POS systems including Harbortouch, Future POS and Oracle Hospitality (formerly MICROS). Existing Shift4 customers must pay $149 each for the wireless terminals, according to a spokesperson for the processor.

Shift4 has been on an acquisition streak in recent months, purchasing taxi-payment technology provider CurvePay, which came on the heels of Shift4 being acquired by Lighthouse Network.

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