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Payments on the Go

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When San Diego-based Tabe Foods introduced the first of what is expected to become a series of mobile trucks selling fine cuisine, it had one big problem: It could only accept cash payments.

Although there were several technology solutions in the market that allowed wireless acceptance of cards, most did not transmit the data in a real-time manner. This meant that Tabe would have to pay a higher rate to accept plastic payment in the trucks than in its bricks-and-mortar operation. Additionally, executives of the company had serious concerns about the security of payment data being transmitted over wireless networks.

But then Tabe began using a system designed by Precidia Technologies of Ottawa, Ont., and implemented by Red River POS of San Diego. It allows Tabe to accept card payments in a secure manner and send the data in real time, so Tabe could qualify for a lower transaction rate. Furthermore, the system not only collects payment data on card payments, it also compiles and displays all the cash purchases on a secured Internet site so Tabe executives can analyze all the truck’s sales data.

The system was integrated with a Casio cash register so that transactions can be processed over the Sprint wireless network. Unique to this arrangement was the POSLynx220 multiport router that acts as a fortress for cardholder data with firewalls and encryption software and provides routing to multiple processors.

“We looked at other solutions, but when this came out, we were confident that our data would be secure,” says Todd Wong, operations manager for Tabe. “What stood out was the security, No. 1, but also that it met our needs in terms of payments and providing data about our sales.”

Sales tracking capabilities
Tabe sends its trucks out to special events and corporate functions, offering Mexican and Korean gourmet cuisine similar to what is available at its San Diego location.

In addition to allowing the trucks to accept credit, debit and gift cards, Tabe executives like the fact that the system lets them track cash transactions as well. “We can run a report daily about what products are selling the most,” Wong says.

That is an important feature. “It is often hard for store management to manage what is being sold on a mobile truck,” says Linus Nghi Le, principal consultant for Red River POS. “This allows them to get a complete view of what is happening via an Internet portal.”

This sales information can also be gathered in real time. Tabe can view reports of sales made up to five minutes before logging on to the system, says Deepak Wanner, president of Precidia, a developer of Internet protocol payment and networking products. In addition to providing information about sales data, the system can provide time and attendance reports and show how much each employee sold on a truck.

“They can get, on one screen, all the sales data in what is as close to real time as you are going to get,” Wanner says. “In addition to getting a one-screen overall view of all truck locations, they can then drill down to view individual details.”

Among other benefits of this system, Wanner says, is that retailers get online reports of abnormal transactions, like refunds that exceeded a set amount. Reports of these irregularities can also be e-mailed to management in addition to showing up on the online report.

Fully integrated system
Security is a major factor as well. In addition to providing firewalls and encryption as part of its security offering, the system is compliant with the requirements of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council.

“There are a lot of issues with PCI compliance, and we and Precidia made sure all the provisions were met,” says Le, whose company is an authorized Casio dealer that provides POS hardware and software solutions customized to specific industries, including hospitality and food service.

The system was configured so that data is sent via a wireless network back to Precidia, where it can be sent directly to multiple processors. This allows Tabe to qualify for a lower discount rate for what it ultimately pays card issuers for the ability to accept credit cards.

“Most wireless terminals are not fully integrated and as a result, retailers do not qualify for the lowest rate,” Le says. “By integrating this system through Precidia, we can increase security and lower the cost of accepting card payments for Tabe.”

And, unlike some Internet-based wireless systems, Precidia has been able to go directly to payment processors and avoid using an Internet payments gateway, saving “as much as 10 cents to 12 cents” a transaction, Wanner says.

Seeing the technology’s potential
This is the first mobile restaurant application of this type for Red River and Precidia, but both companies believe the configuration can be marketed to other mobile merchants.

There were a few minor glitches in the beginning, but now that those issues have been dealt with, executives say the solution offers a great deal of potential. “We see a big opportunity with mobile restaurants,” says Wanner. “We have overcome the security issues and dealt with the cost issues of wireless transactions. Tabe is using a high-end cash register, but we have also designed this to work on a hot dog truck that can’t afford such a sophisticated POS system.”

In addition to working with cash registers, Precidia has developed the system to integrate with smartphones so that clients can input payment data into a phone and transmit the data back to the Precidia box. Such transactions would incur a higher card acceptance fee because they would involve card-not-present transactions, but the overall cost would be lower to some mobile merchants because they would not have to pay for the cash register.