The Rail Joins Menu of Restaurant Payment Methods

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Byline: David Heun

Security experts have long considered restaurants a happy hunting ground for credit card skimmers and payment system hackers. Meanwhile, diners have become understandably reluctant to let a waiter take their credit card away from the table when settling their bill.

With its Jan. 5 unveiling of an at-the-table digital payment terminal called the Rail, Viableware joined other technology companies that for the past couple of years have been trying to eliminate the standard restaurant bill-payment methods.

Credit card data breaches at restaurants often do not make headlines, though a large breach reported last month involving Subway restaurants illustrates the need to keep card data out of restaurant payment systems.

Rail differs from other devices. It looks like the traditional bill folder and, when opened, displays a digital touchscreen that summarizes the bill and provides payment options, says Joe Snell, Viableware's chief executive.

Users have the option of paying by cash or payment card, and the card never leaves the table, Snell says. The device will alert waiters a payment is ready, says Bob McBreen, vice president of product development at Viableware.

Neither the merchant nor Viableware stores any card data, though Viableware creates a 24-character algorithm to identify a customer and stores that information on its cloud-based virtual data center if a restaurant wants to establish loyalty programs, McBreen says. "The merchant does not store any card data, which cuts down on the Payment Card Industry compliance scoping," he adds, referring to the PCI data-security standards.

Viableware, of Kirkland, Wash. …