Restaurant POS inside bar

EMV chip cards have become a necessary part of payments for most industries. But when was the last time you went to a fine dining establishment and used a chip reader? I’ll go out on a limb and assume it’s not common.

Yet, the food service industry needs to take notice, as EMV is quickly becoming a global standard for all payment and processing. And, with card security continuing to be a concern in restaurants, the shift to EMV chip compliance isn’t just a nice-to-have feature for restaurant POS systemsit’s on its way to becoming mandatory. As major information hacks continue to crop up, consumers are more and more aware of where their information is going and how vulnerable it is every time they swipe their card.

Imagine the toll it would take on your business if your restaurant was the epicenter of a data breach. Not only would you have a major (read: expensive) mess on your hands to clean up, the chances of any of those customers ever coming back are slim to none. Plus, there are all the people who haven’t been to of heard of your restaurant before who will, from then on, only associate it with a scandalous data breach. Since this scenario is easily avoidable with EMV compliance, it’s certainly worth it to at least investigate the option.

a busy bar in black and white

Whether you’re ready to make the leap to an EMV restaurant or you’re looking to get ahead of the game as you open a brand new place, here’s a crash course on EMV compliance that all restaurateurs, from fast food to fine dining, should know.

What is EMV Compliance?

EMV has been a common sight in retail locations since becoming a global initiative in late 2015, but its technology dates back to the 1990s. Named on behalf of its developers Europay, Mastercard, and Visa, EMV chip technology was implemented to help enhance security through embedding of cardholder information. It’s important to note, first, that cards are essentially just little memory banks of information. It’s in the magnetic stripe (or, eventually, the chip) that all payment information and electronic data is stored.

Whereas existing magnetic stripe technology continues to be prone to hacking, embedded chip cards are magnitudes safer, with encryption that is nearly impossible to hack to prevent against counterfeiting. While most cards have both stripes and chips at the moment, the trend is certainly moving toward just EMV chips. Eventually, that’s how most cards are going to be configured. Like smartphones replacing flip phones, it’s simply the direction technology is moving.

The United States was one of the last nations to adopt the technology, but worldwide credit card fraud has dropped significantly since worldwide implementation.

66% of businesses have found meeting EMV compliance standards a challenge. Download our EMV Guide to master it in your restaurant.

Why Should I Make My Restaurant EMV Compliant?

In one word: liability. These mega card companies got together to create EMV chips and incentivize compliance with them in order to reduce their liability in the whole process. Eventually, any retailer that doesn’t comply can be left on the hook for any results of a data breach and the card companies will get off free as a bird. Though no one will be waiting outside your restaurant with handcuffs if you haven’t updated your card technology, this shift toward EMV compliance is real, and before long, you may be held accountable if fraud and theft occur in your restaurant and haven’t updated.

While the chances of having to repay massive fraudulent charges are slim, there’s a possibility that you could find yourself having to pay chargeback amounts if a user with a fraudulent card gets through your stripe-only system. How much money that ends up costing you depends on the business you run—it could be as small as a breakfast sandwich or as massive as a fine dining meal for eight. Even if the charge is something as small as a latte, those small costs can add up over time, compounded especially for restaurants since operating on razor-thin margins is the norm. In short, you could be liable for losses, charges and other legal unpleasantries.

EMV card in reader

We realize the cost of upgrading POS equipment, especially for a small, local operation, can present financial and logistical nightmares. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even after the initial EMV compliance deadline came and went in late 2015, nearly 38 percent of retailers had no intention of updating to the newer tech.

However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Thankfully the vast majority of newer, cloud-based POS systems are ready to go with EMV compliance, making the transition as simple as ditching your old POS system for an upgrade anyway.

How Can My POS Help My Restaurant Conform to EMV Compliance Law?

Today’s restaurant POS systems, such as Upserve POS, include EMV compatibility, giving you a laundry list of options beyond sales, yet the experience remains unchanged for customers.

66% of businesses have found meeting EMV compliance standards a challenge. Feel confident about your restaurant and EMV with the ultimate guide.

Download The Guide

Using a “chip and signature” method, your customers won’t notice any difference in how the bill is paid, split, tipped upon or confirmed. But they will enjoy the comfort of knowing their information is securely encrypted and safe from devious hands.

In turn, your operations will function exactly as they have with your existing POS. Your service team will be able to accurately and easily split checks, obtain signatures and apply tips with no disruption to proven workflows.

The deadline for EMV compliance may have been pushed back, while regulatory agencies scramble to improve adoption. But this apathy doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. The benefits of EMV complianceboth for you and your customersare too significant to toss aside.

Three EMV Myths

Myth 1: EMV implementation is mandatory.

Fact: EMV Is NOT mandatory. It’s the merchant’s choice to implement. In fact, the chip card will still have a magnetic stripe for use at traditional swipe and sign terminals. This means that if your terminal does not accept chip and signature cards, you can still accept payments.

However, some argue for EMV adoption since fraud risk is higher on magnetic stripe cards and terminals as they will be the lowest level of technology.

EMV compliance

Myth 2: “Chip and pin” and “chip and signature” are the same.

Fact: These two are NOT the same. The U.S. has adopted “chip and signature” EMV, not “chip and pin.” The latter does make the card more secure, and has been responsible for decreasing fraud in other parts of the world, but it’s not yet standard in the U.S. In the meantime, pairing a chip with a signature is still more secure than the magnetic stripe alone.

Myth 3: EMV compliance secures cardholder data.

Fact: EMV does NOT protect or encrypt cardholder data. EMV is an authorization technology, and doesn’t hide cardholder data by itself. The unique transaction number allows the merchant’s EMV terminal to challenge the EMV card to prove that it’s authentic. This makes it harder to copy an EMV card than a magnetic card. But once the card is authenticated, the cardholder data is transmitted to the POS similarly to how it is today.

Four Tips for Easier EMV Implementation

1. Train, train, train.


It’s critical that you train your entire staff thoroughly when it comes to any new tech changes. For an update this substantial, schedule a team training session to get everyone on the same page at once and answer everyone’s questions together. Be sure that shift managers have even more rigorous training so that there is always an expert on hand at each shift.

Waiter credit card reader EMV

2. Help your guests.

EMV implementation is not just about training your staff, it’s also about training your guests. Remember, this is new for them, too. Businesses have adopted this technology at different paces and in different capacities, so your guests may have questions. Train staff to explain any new procedures to your guests, and be sure they explain that this technology is beneficial to both of you as it makes transactions secure and cuts down on fraud.

3. Detect fraud.

Train your staff to keep an eye out for fraudulent cards. Cards without chips may still be run with their magnetic strips, but these are now more likely than before to be fraudulent. Ask for IDs, and if a card is declined, ask for a new form of payment.

4. Plan ahead.

Now that EMV technology has made it to the U.S., it’s not going away. In fact, it’s likely that we’ll start to move toward a pay and PIN option, as opposed to the current pay and sign procedure. If you’re making a big investment in your restaurant’s technology for EMV implementation, be sure that the technology you select can grow with you into the future.

Check out Upserve’s EMV compliance guide!

See How Upserve Can Help With Your Restaurant's EMV Compliance!

Written by   |  
Brad Bortone is a writer, editor and content marketer, published in areas ranging from content strategy to music reviews, and seemingly everywhere in between. Brad's love of the food industry began during his tenure with Johnson & Wales University's web team, writing countless pieces about - and enjoying countless lunches from - the school's esteemed culinary program.