LevelUp partners with NCR to bring mobile payments to more restaurants

LevelUp has struck a deal with one of the largest makers of retail point-of-sale systems, NCR, helping the startup make further inroads into its most important market: restaurants.

The payments startup is now chummy with the top two POS terminal and software makers used by U.S. restaurants (the other is Micros), and has deals will several smaller suppliers. The startup still has a long way to go before all of the burger joints and bistros that use those systems adopt its payments solution, but it’s comfortable in the knowledge that half the restaurants in the country could easily adopt that solution.

LeveluUp, NFC, mobile paymentsLevelUp offers both its own mobile payments app and white label technology that retailers can integrate into their own apps. In both cases, the implementation is pretty simple: they generate QR codes linked to a customer’s credit card information, which they can then scan into a terminal at the restaurant to make a mobile payment.

That terminal could be as basic as the proprietor’s smartphone (several previously cash-only merchants have used LevelUp to start accepting credit card payments), requiring no additional hardware, or it could take the form of a dedicated terminal. LevelUp takes 2 percent off the top of any transaction, but it also uses its platform to track customer data for rewards and promotions, bridging the gap between a loyalty program and a payment processing service.

At the end of 2012, LevelUp’s apps had about 500,000 users and it was handling about $5 million in transactions each month. Even in the nascent mobile payments market that makes it relatively small, however – in 2012, Square’s annual processing rate was $10 billion. But LevelUp believes it can become the Android(s goog) to the Square’s iOS(s aapl) by working with other players like NCR in transaction value chain.

That’s one of the main reasons is focusing on independent restaurants, LevelUp said. Most restaurants already have a fully functioning (and often expensive) POS system in place. Instead of requiring a business to implement a new system for mobile payments, LevelUp merely acts as an appendage to their existing ones.