To compete for restaurant payments, Fiserv lets diners use the point of sale

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For the past decade, the drive for modern restaurant point-of-sale terminals and software has turned into a highly competitive race seeking new looks and ideas.

In many cases, the goal has been to use mobile technology to bring payments to the table. Fiserv's Clover Station Pro complements that approach with a countertop model, and is the latest line in the Clover family, which Fiserv obtained when it acquired First Data last year.

Rather than bring the terminal to a table, the new Clover device sits on a countertop to interact with the customer at quick-service restaurants, bars or diners. The benefit of this interaction is it improves accuracy.

"Our customers like it because they can see what they are buying as it's being rung up," said Jack Mesbahi, owner of Una Mas restaurant, a Fiserv customer in Stevens Creek, Calif. "It's really helped us to improve order accuracy and reduce waste."

In this scenario, accuracy is more important than the convenience of being able to pay at the table. The device — which has a customer-facing countertop display that allows the consumer to see the order being placed, choose a payment method, add a tip and use a PIN when needed — is also meant to facilitate communication between the restaurant and the patron.

“Clover Station Pro is specifically built for engaging both the merchant and customer, simultaneously, at the counter," said Travis Balinas, director of Clover product strategy.

It also allows the customer to earn or redeem loyalty points from the establishment and review menu promotions and deals.

When iPads and other tablets were morphing into mobile point-of-sale options for some retailers, traditional terminal makers saw the potential for that model to translate to pay-at-the-table or other mobile scenarios in the restaurant vertical.

Nearly all major terminal providers now support a pay-at-the-table model, or smaller POS terminals and some major restaurant chains deploying those devices. Ingenico has delivered various Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 4G models; Verifone developed the e285 payment device that rests inside the waiter's bill folio; and NCR has touted its Orderman mobile terminal for restaurant tables.

Newer companies, like Toast, offer smaller restaurant clients a total package for their business from back office management tools to terminals of all sizes. And Square has been in this field for a long time as well — and arguably started the craze with its initial mPOS smartphone attachment.

But Clover has also drawn attention of its own with a line of table-top and mobile terminals over the past eight years. But the new terminal gives the dining customer far more comfort in monitoring card use and reviewing bills and tips.

Station Pro is designed "to be the hub of counter service restaurants, and is deployed at the counter since that is where their transactions take place," Balinas added.

Fiserv sees future opportunities with Clover Station Pro as a terminal for full-service restaurants as a way to facilitate customer interactions beyond the table. For now, the new terminal complements the Clover Flex model that provides pay-at-the-table functions.

"Clover Flex, both the first and second generations, is a big seller domestically and abroad," Balinas said. "And Clover Flex integrates and works seamlessly with any over the Clover device, including Clover Station Pro."

At the same time as the Clover Station Pro launch, Fiserv has made new software available for counter service restaurants and table service restaurants. The software unifies back office and kitchen operations with the front-end service, while also providing kitchen printers, menu management and pre-authorization of bar tabs.

“Properly serving the restaurant vertical is crucial for payment providers as restaurants typically experience higher payment transaction volume, require specific business and management tools to run their operations, and represent a growing sector of the economy,” said Raymond Pucci, director of merchant services at Mercator Advisory Group, in a release provided by Fiserv.

“Both quick and full-service restaurants would like to manage all aspects of their business at the point of sale," Pucci added. "For restaurants to grow their revenues, payment solutions providers must provide them with the technology and specific tools they need to simplify their operations, more quickly serve their guests, and create more in-store opportunities to engage customers.”

Most new restaurant terminal models accept EMV-chip cards, contactless cards and most mobile wallets.

That sort of payment-agnostic terminal development has come about because restaurants were determining how best to approach accepting EMV cards while also initiating pay-at-table or mobile POS service — all to address customers' increasing uneasiness regarding wait staff taking a card away from a table to a POS terminal.

Those same concerns have pushed terminal makers to get involved in the mobile order-and-pay ahead trend, depending on what type of restaurant and the goal of such a process — either to cut down on lines at quick-serve establishments, or save time for wait staff in casual restaurant or bar settings.

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