Mobile phones are everywhere. According to Nielsen, 61% of U.S. mobile subscribers are smartphone users, and those devices are making their way more and more into the everyday activities of consumers, even in restaurants.
Today’s smartphone users aren’t just taking and sharing photos of their meals at restaurants. They’re using their phones to pay at the table without exchanging cash or even a credit card, and some enterprising restaurant operators are experimenting with ways to use mobile payments to provide convenience to their guests as well as increase the opportunity for restaurant feedback and social sharing.
McDonald’s is allowing guests in select markets to order through their mobile phones and then pick up their food in stores, curbside or at the drive-thru. The app not only allows them to place their orders but also sends users special promotions and offers to increase customer frequency.
Airline passengers at La Guardia Airport are able to use iPads mounted to their tables to order meals as well as go online. Allowing passengers the ability to order and pay through iPads has made sales per passenger at La Guardia $9 to $11 higher than at the average airport.
Then there are restaurants, including Jack in the Box and Dairy Queen that offer Google Wallet. Google Wallet uses wireless technology called near-field communication (NFC) to allow users to tap their phones at a terminal to pay. Another option is Square, which offers a Square Wallet. The app allows guests to open a food tab when they arrive at the restaurant. The staff sees each user’s face appear on their checkout screens, and then guests are automatically charged for their meals with no physical bill or payment exchanges. Square has become a popular payment solution with food trucks.
Businesses embracing this technology are seeing the benefits. Starbucks allows for mobile payments through their My Starbucks mobile app. More than 10% of their U.S. transactions are made using mobile payments. This technology allows for faster service by allowing guests to quickly move through lines, lower credit-card fees and an experience consumer segments like Millennials appreciate.
That doesn’t mean it’s for every business. Ask yourself:
- How do my guests prefer to pay?
- Will this make my employees better at their jobs?
- What is the backup plan if there’s an issue?
- With so many mobile payment technology platforms, what’s the best system for my business (e.g., fees, ease of integration, etc.)?
Mobile payments are yet one more way foodservice operators are providing good customer service and positively affecting their bottom lines.