This fall, waiters at two Planet Hollywood locations will prompt diners to pull out their Maestro on-line debit cards for payment instead of cash.

When the bill comes, the waiters will bring a hand-held terminal that customers can use to swipe their Maestro cards, key in their personal identification numbers, and input the payment amount. The money will be deducted almost instantaneously from their deposit accounts.

The six-week trial at Planet Hollywoods in Washington and Orlando is being orchestrated by MasterCard International and point-of-sale provider Micros Systems Inc., Beltsville, Md.

"We want to enable cardholders to use their Maestro cards in full- service restaurants in place of cash," said Daniel T. Ciporin, MasterCard's vice president of marketing for global deposit access.

The Purchase, N.Y.-based association is seeking to increase penetration of its on-line debit product in new acceptance categories, such as restaurants.

Industry experts say that debit-card penetration and usage in this country has now reached a critical mass, which makes restaurant merchant acceptance of on-line debit cost-effective and feasible.

And the market is ripe.

Citing industry statistics, MasterCard said that 12% of the $100 billion in U.S. restaurant sales was paid for with credit cards from January to November 1995. MasterCard sees the 88% of payments made with cash or check as a prime opportunity for on-line debit.

Peter J. Rogers, director of business development for Micros Systems, said the pilot program had larger implications for merchant acceptance.

"This is not just geared to restaurants," he said. "It's for stadiums, casinos, and theme parks, where debit will (also) take hold."

"The Planet Hollywood crowd would like to try new things; they are younger and very much in sync with MasterCard's debit-card users," said Anne Morgan Moore, president of Synergistics, Atlanta.

She said debit-card sales volume needed to reach a certain level before the cost of a program like the MasterCard initiative would be worthwhile.

Bank Network News reported a 36.9% growth in the use of debit cards nationally for 1995. Also in 1995, MasterCard said, there were 22.4 million Maestro cards in circulation in the United States, with 86,404 accepting merchants. In comparison, Visa U.S.A. had said it had 32 million Interlink cards, with 95,000 accepting merchants.

"The consumer's attitude has changed toward debit, especially with regard to on-line debit," said Richard Robida, senior executive vice president, Speer & Associates, Atlanta.

Customers feel more secure using a personal identification number, Mr. Robida added.

Micros' Mr. Rogers said that Planet Hollywood caters to an international clientele already comfortable with using on-line debit cards.

During the pilot, Maestro cards and regional automated teller machine cards that have access to the Maestro network will be accepted. In the future, Micros Systems said, it could write software to accept Interlink.

Micros Systems will use its Micros 8700 HMS, a PC-based point of sale system for restaurants.

Mr. Rogers said that Micros Systems is looking at hand-held terminals from International Verifact Inc., a Canadian company, as well as from Verifone Inc. and Hypercom Inc., the nation's top two providers.

First Data Merchant Services, a division of First Data Corp., Hackensack, N.J., will serve as the transaction processor.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.