Navigating EMV chip card acceptance for restaurants



Written by Steve Cole. Senior Product Manager for EMV

With the migration to EMV chip card acceptance steadily moving across the retail sectors of the economy, restaurants are increasingly finding themselves in the crosshairs of the bad guys intent on committing counterfeit fraud.

In the early days of the EMV migration, merchants that sold high-dollar electronics and gift cards were still ripe for the picking and restaurants were not seen as a particularly attractive fraud target. However, as EMV adoption began picking up steam at the end of 2015, the cost of stolen card data on the black market dropped significantly and “casual” fraud began to rise. While professional fraudsters continued to look for big paydays by moving their activities to online commerce, casual fraudsters saw an opportunity to get the occasional (or regular) free meal.

What does this all mean for restaurant operators? Losses due to chargebacks for counterfeit fraud will most likely continue to rise until EMV is implemented. However, for table-service and quick service restaurants, there are some unique requirements that need to be supported that are not found in many of the retail environments that have implemented EMV.

Currently, in most U.S. table-service restaurants, when customers pay using a payment card, their card is taken to a server’s station where the payment terminal is located. While this model supports chip-and-signature enabled cards, it becomes problematic when the card is chip-and-PIN enabled. The merchant may choose to not support PIN, but that opens them up to chargebacks from lost and stolen fraud if the card is PIN-preferring and the terminal doesn’t support PIN.

A second consideration when considering EMV for table-service is the ability to accept gratuities. This may not be as significant an issue as many believe, though. Tip adjustments can still be made on chip-and-signature transactions with the same allowances that are in place today for magnetic-stripe transactions. However, some card brands do not allow tip adjustments on chip-and-PIN transactions. So, while much has been made of the complexities of accepting EMV at table-service restaurants, the real sticking point is PIN.

A pay-at-the-table solution makes the payment process as friction-free as possible for chip-and-PIN transactions, by eliminating the need for a customer to make a trip to the server’s station to enter their PIN. Today’s pay-at-the-table solutions also have tip-prompting features that make selecting a tip amount easier for the diner. This functionality can eliminate another awkward moment when the customer is trying to calculate the tip amount while the server is standing by the table.

For quick service restaurants, the challenge of EMV lies in the speed of the transaction. By now, everyone has heard the horror stories of chip cards sitting in terminals for 20, 30, 40 seconds or more while the EMV transaction processed. This is an obviously unacceptably long time for a quick service environment.

To address this problem, all of the global card brands have published guidance on faster EMV processing under the names Quick Chip and M/Chip Fast. These solutions eliminate some of the EMV processing steps without compromising the core features that protect against counterfeit fraud. By implementing a faster EMV solution, the time the card is in the reader can be reduced down to a couple of seconds.

Quick service restaurants may also want to consider implementing support for contactless payments, as these transactions only require a tap of a contactless card or device. Implementing support for contactless payments also includes the ability to support mobile wallets and the built-in loyalty features that are common with this type of solution.

While implementing EMV is not an insignificant undertaking for any restaurant operator, it also doesn’t have to be overwhelming or threaten to bring the business to a grinding halt. Understanding the payment solutions that are available and working with the right partners can relieve much of the burden and free up necessary time and energy to focus on serving customers.



Here’s the latest news shaping the commerce and payments ecosystem. These feature articles tackle subjects including mobile payments, EMV, and credit card processing to arm you with the best knowledge to run your business.


The road to smarter, faster, easier payments is paved with information, and MerchantAdvantage is your vehicle to get you there. Our monthly newsletter is packed with resources to help you grow, improve and secure your business. Fasten your seatbelt. Let’s go.


Alerts share news from the leading card networks—covering what you want and need to know about processing, security and operations.

I’d like to speak with someone about payment security