Businesses in all industries are feeling the impact of COVID-19 as they adjust operational practices to adhere to new government regulations to keep both their team and their customers safe.
Even businesses that are considered essential services and are allowed to continue operating are looking for new ways to accept payments and serve their customers. The team at Helcim wants to help businesses find new ways to accept payments and keep their businesses operating. We have found the tenacity and determination of the small business community inspiring as they work together to conduct business in new ways using online tools like virtual terminals, hosted payment pages, invoicing, and online stores. Businesses who have never before sold products online have had to pivot their operations and rally their teams to offer delivery, online ordering, and product pickups in order to keep sales flowing.
Guidelines for businesses and classification categories for essential services may vary by jurisdiction. We recommend you check with your local and federal government to ensure you stay up-to-date on the latest guidelines and restrictions as they are updated.
The operating guidelines for restaurants and foodservice businesses will vary by jurisdiction and it is important to double-check any additional guidelines or requirements that may apply to your business. For example in Alberta, where Helcim's head office is located, the following food-related businesses are considered to be an essential service and are permitted to continue operating:
- Retail staff employed at food distribution facilities
- Food production staff for staples including butchers, bakers, and fishmongers
- Restaurants and other food preparation facilities, including those with alcohol service only for delivery or takeout (no dining room service)
- Food delivery services
- Food-related charities, such as food banks and "Meals on Wheels"
When Accepting In-Person Payments
If you're still accepting payments from customers in person, you will want to keep your terminals as clean as possible. This is particularly important for high traffic stores such as grocery or convenience stores.
Another way to limit the transfer of germs is to encourage contactless payments which will limit the number of people who need to touch the terminal and the transfer of germs from payment cards to the terminal. Visa and Mastercard are currently working to increase the limit on tap to $250 from the previous limit of $100 to encourage more customers to pay using tap and avoid touching the PIN pad.
Accept Payments Online or Over the Phone
There are different online tools you can use instead of a traditional terminal to help minimize contact and practice social distancing while still serving customers. Many businesses in the restaurant industry are offering pickup and delivery services for the first time ever, this has meant they need to find new ways to let customers know about their offerings and quickly create payment pages and online stores to collect orders. Here are some of the tools restaurants can use to continue to serve customers:
An Online Store
Creating an online store, or adding quick order functionality to your existing website, can let you add menu items, along with photos and descriptions while specifying their availability (takeout, delivery, curbside pickup). Customers can place their orders and submit payment online, all in one place. This can also help restaurants avoid the added cost of using a third-party delivery service which can significantly eat into their profit margins.
A Virtual Terminal
Using just your mobile phone, tablet or computer, you can use a virtual terminal to process payments from your customers over the phone. To accept a payment, you would simply key-in the customer's payment information while they are on the phone or waiting in their vehicle. You can email customers a copy of their receipt and track orders and payments through your Helcim account.
If customers are emailing in their orders or submitting them through an order form on your website, you can send digital invoices to customers to collect payment through Buy Now buttons when customers are ready to pay. When an invoice is marked as paid in your account you can then fulfill the order. Sending invoices for orders can provide more flexibility to accept orders when you're away from the store or unable to answer phone calls. Many businesses are operating with smaller teams and may not be able to have someone dedicated to answering customer calls at all times.
Hosted Payment Pages
Restaurants have been putting together creative offerings include grocery kits, prepared meals, DIY kits, and date night offerings including alcohol. These pre-designed offerings can be easily sold using a templated hosted payment page. You can create the hosted payment page in just a few minutes and integrate it on your website. Once the payment page is deployed, customers can submit payment and enter all of their pickup or delivery information.
Tips for Protecting Your Business
Here are some of the adjustments we have seen businesses in the restaurant industry adapt. We want to share them in case they can help other businesses who are looking for ways to continue their operations. By working together and sharing ideas, we can find ways to keep commerce flowing and provide essential services to the people who need it.
Some of the adjustments we have seen restaurants make include:
- Creating take-home meal kits to let customers recreate date night at home
- Offering takeout and pickup of select menu items for restaurants that don't traditionally offer takeout
- Offering promotions and alcohol add-ons including wine pairing suggestions to go with takeout orders
- Cocktail bars are offering take-home cocktail kits to recreate popular drinks at home
- Distributing online and live-stream tutorials for how to recreate meals and drinks at home
- Pre-sales for special offers or meal offerings, accepting orders ahead of time can give restaurants time to manage demand with a smaller team
- Creating grocery kits with ingredients available at the restaurant and offering them as an alternative to the grocery store
- Special offerings for holidays and events where people traditionally went out to celebrate
- Promoting at-home challenges or activities using recipes, ingredients, or meals from their restaurant to keep customers engaged
- Partnering with local breweries for add-on items to boost sales for both businesses
- Asking regular customers to prepay a "goodwill tab" that the restaurant can fulfill at a later date
Business will return to normal eventually, but in the meantime, we believe that generosity and collaboration will help us overcome these challenges. At Helcim, we have always been committed to sharing resources and knowledge that empowers business owners. We will continue to share information on how businesses can adapt to new government regulations, accept online payments, and find ways to keep their business operating. If you would like to learn more about any of the tools mentioned in this post or see how your business could accept online or phone payments, our team of Helcim Gurus would be happy to help.
Not a Helcim Merchant?
If your business needs to accept credit and debit cards in person or online, Helcim provides honest, transparent, and affordable credit card processing that stands out in an industry known for shady business practices and customer exploitation. Our Interchange Plus pricing is widely regarded as the most honest and affordable billing method in the industry and our customer service is consistently lauded as a step above. If you have any questions or would like a complimentary rate comparison, don't hesitate to contact our friendly Customer Service team.