Payment Channel Blog Series: Handheld Payments

Handhelds are mobile devices used by staff primarily to process orders or payments, effectively making them a mobile point-of-sale. TableTab’s handhelds are the perfect payment channel for merchants and collaborative operations whose staff need to process orders and payments where the customer is, like at a seat or a table.

In our Payment Channel Blog Series, we introduce TableTab’s three core payment channels, which are part of our collaborative point-of-sale system. This post dives into handheld payments, which is TableTab's mobile extension of our collaborative point-of-sale platform.


What is a handheld? For TableTab, handhelds are any mobile device used by staff to process orders or payments. Within the TableTab ecosystem, handhelds are the perfect payment channel for merchants and collaborative operations whose staff need to process orders and payment where the customer is, like at a seat or a table. Typically in these operations, customers expect a more service-driven experience, underlining the importance of factors like time and convenience. Our collaborative handhelds align with customers' expectations to facilitate a top-notch customer experience without compromising on the handheld's speed and intuitive design expected by staff. 

Taking handheld payments can also be operationally and experientially agnostic and used as the go-to upselling tool for staff or management floating between and engaging with customers. TableTab’s handheld payment channel is fundamentally collaborative - just like our terminals and QR codes - so that customers can order from multiple merchants whenever approached by staff.

Furthermore, our handhelds can connect to existing tabs initiated by our other payment channels. Staff can add to a customer’s tab across multiple merchants without asking for payment again. It is the easiest, fastest, and the most service-oriented way to make a sale.

Let’s explore other aspects of the handheld as a mobile point-of-sale channel.

Taking Orders & Payment

A primary function of our handhelds is to take orders and process payments across multiple merchants. Staff uses their handhelds to relay orders communicated by the customer or to complete payment on a tab or transaction. Our handhelds are powered by the same software used for our collaborative terminals, meaning staff has a complete collaborative point-of-sale system they can run from the palm of their hands.

To take a new transaction, staff have a few options. Some of the most popular are below:

  • Take payment up front: staff can preauthorize cards via handhelds so customers can order more throughout their experience and not have to pay later.
  • Defer payment: staff can take an order or start a tab and process payment at the end of the experience, mimicking traditional full-service hospitality.
  • Single transactions: staff can process the order with payment at once, just like terminals are used for retail, takeout, and other “one-and-done” transactions.

Connecting to Existing Tabs

Core to TableTab’s collaborative ecosystem is “cloud” tabs: open tabs that communicate and update in real-time across payment channels. This means a customer can start a tab at a counter via a terminal, and that tab would show up on a staff’s handheld when approaching the same customer at their seat or table.

With handhelds, staff can identify a customer’s existing tab by name or a different identifier (i.e., table number). When staff approaches the customer, they can add to the customer’s tab, even if they started their tab through a different payment channel.

Of course, staff’s handhelds have access to the product catalogs of all collaborating merchants so that staff can add different items from various merchants on an existing tab.

The Customer Experience with Handhelds

How customers engage with handhelds is simple: they don’t. Regarding handhelds, communication should occur between the customer and the staff. Staff uses the handhelds to fulfill the customer's needs while servicing them. For example, when taking an order, the staff rings up the item on their handheld. For taking payment, the staff would receive a customer’s card and swipe it through the handheld’s connected chip reader (we integrate with existing chip readers, like this one and this one). 

Bottom line: the customer experience is effortless, quick, and human, as staff uses their handhelds to complete transactions on the customer’s behalf.

Management Tools

Because TableTab handhelds are powered by the same software as TableTab terminals, our handhelds can do much more than take orders and payments across multiple merchants. Staff can also manage shared product catalogs and active tabs.

  • Managing shared product catalogs: staff can use the handheld to hide items from the product catalog (ex: item sells out), turn off shared product catalogs themselves (ex: a collaborating merchant closes early), edit items in real-time, and so on. Such activity can also be tracked through TableTab’s real-time activity logs.
  • Managing active tabs: staff can use their handhelds to manage active tabs, including adding items to an existing tab, initiating item-based or dollar-based refunds, accepting discounts across every merchant, splitting and merging tabs, and so much more.

Reporting Tools

Aggregate and merchant-based reports are accessible through our handhelds, too, with metrics like total sales, cash sales, total tips, cash tips, and more available for viewing and analysis in real-time. Receive hourly breakdowns on any given day, or see reports over an extended period.

Hardware Agnostic

Unlike other point-of-sale systems like Toast that require merchants to purchase their expensive handhelds, our collaborative handhelds are software-based so merchants can plug them into any existing smartphone. Furthermore, our software integrates with merchants’ existing printers, so items purchased through a handheld can instantly generate a printed ticket for fulfillment and/or receipt for customers.

Operational Autonomy

When transactions are completed on a collaborative handheld, TableTab’s back-end software ensures each merchant is still responsible for their own items.

  • Separate Ticket Flows: every merchant has their own way of receiving tickets. This means each merchant will receive and fulfill only the items ordered that belong to their product catalog.
  • Automated Accounting: every merchant receives their money instantly. This means TableTab separates each item's sales, tax, and tip (if applicable) by merchant and sends the sum to each.
  • Product Catalog Management: every merchant controls their product catalog. This means product catalogs and their customer-facing equivalent can be managed and updated in real-time by their associated merchant.


TableTab’s collaborative handhelds are a game-changer for taking mobile payments and facilitating effective touch points in a collaborative, service-oriented operation. They ensure merchants who work together can process payments and provide excellent service together to benefit customers, staff, and merchants’ bottom lines. 

Our handhelds continue to get smarter, with weekly expansions to their feature list. We encourage our partners to reach out to us if there’s a feature request they have in mind.

For now, we invite you to try out our handheld software on your existing smartphones! Reach out to us here to schedule a chat or demo.

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