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Self-serve checkout at Legal

Amid concerns about credit-card fraud, chain lets customers pay at their tables

Legal Sea Foods, the Boston purveyor of lobsters and fresh fish, is serving up something new on its menu: self checkout.

The restaurant chain is introducing hand-held devices this year that let customers pay at their tables at all of its 34 stores. The move comes in response to growing concern about credit card fraud -- people don't want to lose sight of their plastic -- and as a way to cut down on the time customers wait for the bill.

A growing number of fast-food chains are experimenting with self-service kiosks, but tableside payment at restaurants is fairly novel in the United States. Other restaurants, including Hooters, have recently begun testing the payment devices.

"It allows consumers to feel they are in more control," said Dennis Lombardi , executive vice president of food service strategies at WD Partners in Ohio.

Legal Sea Foods tested the technology at four restaurants over the past few months. After some initial resistance -- no, you won't be asked to bus your table too -- the device is catching on.

"When we rolled it out, some people were offended by it or intimidated," said Roger Berkowitz, Legal Sea Food's chief executive. "People are there to relax and have a good time so there is a little bit of a fine line. But given the furor over credit-card protection, we're definitely starting to see more people wanting to experiment with it."

Jenn Abelson can be reached at