Viableware Ready to Ride the Rail

by Mercator Advisory Group 0

Viableware, creator of the Rail payment platform for full-service restaurants that enables customers to pay for meals at their tables electronically without having to hand over their credit card to a waiter, says in the coming weeks it will announce strategic partnerships that will lead to full rollouts of the product later this quarter. Rail uses a fleet of handheld devices designed to replicate the look and feel of the typical leather folder that is the standard for bill presentation at full-service restaurants.

Two restaurants are in beta testing, and five others are preparing for functional pilots. If all go to full rollouts, Rail use would grow to some 2,000 locations. Viableware isn’t yet disclosing the names of the restaurant owners.

Rail devices are designed to last eight years and handle being spilled on and used by thousands of customers. Diners may can split their bills up to nine ways, or each diner can pay individually for what he or she ate and drank. Each Rail device connects to a restaurant’s existing point-of-sale system wirelessly. Swiped card transactions are “tokenized,” so while restaurants cannot see actual card data they can identify when and how often the same cards are used and use that information to reward customers as they see fit or position marketing targeted to a particular customer. The product also supports contactless and cloud-based payments, including those such as PayPal’s that simply require a phone number and password to initiate a payment.

From Viableware’s press release:

“With these relationships now in place, restaurant guests will have the option to choose NFC and cloud-based payments, in addition to cash, debit or credit card when using the Rail devices. Meanwhile, full-service restaurant operators will be able to enhance their dining experience by providing a higher level of service and convenience,” said Joe Snell, Viableware CEO

Viableware has worked hard to ensure Rail is safe by having the device render Web pages instead of supporting hardware and memory capabilities, so there is no information kept in the device, and card data are encrypted immediately. This can lead to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard audit savings, which could offset the cost of the product, which will range from $350 to $600 each, depending on whether the restaurant uses its own wireless system and other factors. Viableware recommends one Rail device per three tables and is targeting some 408,000 U.S. restaurants that have at least 40 tables.

One potential downside is the product does not support EMV card acceptance, and Viableware has not made an investment yet to move in that direction. But even as U.S. issuers increasingly issue cards with EMV chips over the next five years, their cards will continue to have mag-stripes on them as well as contactless-payment capabilities. As such, restaurants investing now in Rail, with its expected 8-year lifespan, shouldn’t feel they’ve bought into a product too early, especially given the inherent security already built into the product.

Click here to read the press release.

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