How to Use Mobile and Contactless Payments to Increase QSR and Fast Casual Restaurant Sales


Mobile and contactless payments are definitely the cool new kid on the block when it comes to restaurant technology. Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Pay Pal, Samsung Pay…let’s face it, it feels pretty awesome to pay for something just by swiping your watch or phone through the air. Not to mention how awesome it is to order and pay for your meal on your mobile phone and simply pick it up with no hassle at the restaurant.

But besides being “cool” there are some very smart ways QSR and Fast Casual restaurants can use these payment types to drive sales.

Let’s explore.

Four Benefits of Mobile and Contactless Payments in QSR and Fast Casual Restaurants

  1. Increasing Speed of Service. If nothing else, mobile and contactless payments are FAST and for the quick service and fast casual restaurant world, speed is critically important. For merchants, contactless-equipped phones can enable fast transactions.  All forms of payment have friction points: cash requires change and credit cards require PINs or signatures; but contactless payment requires only a card or device to be placed near on a compatible reader. And mobile payments are even better since the order is already bought and paid for before the customer even shows up. Ultimately, the faster people can pay, the more quickly you can move them through the line and the more orders you can process.

2. Improved Data Security. Adding contactless payment terminals to protect data and prevent security breach liability is a huge reason so many retailers are adding EMV terminals that accept contactless payments to their existing Point of Sale systems. With contactless payments no credit card numbers are stored in the POS making it what we call “payment unaware.” Right now there are already millions of contactless-ready payment terminals globally; out of the tens of millions of terminals in use around that world.  Over the course of 2016 that base is likely to see a significant increase, particularly in the US where merchants are replacing their terminals to comply with the EMV mandate. Getting EMV terminals is a win-win for retailers who can now protect themselves from EMV liability and also get contactless payment technology added to their registers, all with one device.

3. Attracting Affluent Customers. Installing mobile and contactless payments in your restaurant also gives you the ability to attract a consumer base with higher disposable incomes. Consumers with Apple watches and the latest and greatest technology have extra money to spend, and it’s quite likely they are in the millennial generation that frequents QSR and Fast Casual establishments often. Hundreds of millions of smartphone owners have already submitted their credit card data (one or multiple cards) to a range of vendors so as to be able purchase apps, or download songs, or purchase additional cloud-based storage. Tens of millions of consumers have become acclimatized – over the course of many years – to the idea of contactless payments using their credit and debit cards. Also from a behavior perspective, consumers are far more likely to be holding their phone than their wallet. A few may decide to pay by smartphone to signal their status as early adopters. With some approaches, a smartphone may offer a higher payment limit than a regular contactless card.

4. Provide Personalized and Proactive Marketing. One of the biggest benefits of adopting mobile payments in your restaurant is you can offer guests a more personalized experience. Loyalty programs offered are especially important to customers, particularly those in that millennial audience who expect to be rewarded for frequenting the same restaurant. You can offer specials and promotions to customers who use your loyalty app or pay with a mobile payment type. Sending personalized messages based on their buying behavior is a great way to draw them in for a repeat visit. You can employ very customized mobile ordering options to make it even easier for customers to place their order and for you to increase sales. And you can capitalize on peak food periods – even sending a simple digital message to the right audience at the right time can drive a nice sales boost for your restaurant.

Promotional Strategies for Mobile Payments

Let’s dig into that last one a little bit more. There are all kinds of fun things you can do with mobile payments and programs but let’s focus specifically on loyalty programs and coupons.

Loyalty programs. Loyalty programs are booming across QSR and Fast Casual restaurants. As stated earlier, millennials and generation z expect to be rewarded for their loyalty. Having a loyalty program customers can sign up for on their mobile device, or automatically opt into when they download an e-coupon, is a great way to drive sales. For customers paying with mobile payment types you can track what they are buying and how much they’ve spent and reward them on-the-spot for their return visits (e.g. You qualify for a free shake today as a thank you for your loyalty!). Or, much like the Subway stamp cards of days past, you can give them points each time they use their mobile device to pay and reward them when they’ve reached a certain amount. And the best part about using loyalty programs with those people using digital wallets are you can send new rewards and incentives to their phone instantly. It’s a marketer’s dream; being able to deliver promotions directly into the hands of loyalty customer within minutes in order to boost sales.

Coupons. Coupons are also a fantastic way to capitalize on mobile payments. Running coupons and discounts for digital wallets is a great way to promote your brand and also allow potential guests to save theses coupons to their phones for use in your store. The days of traditional couponing are certainly not over, but technology now allows for a new generation to coupon in a whole new digital way. In addition to creating mobile digital coupons and incentives that you can promote on digital wallet services you can go a step further and turn your one-time coupon into a loyalty program. For example when a customer downloads a discounted pizza coupon on their smartphone and uses it in the store you can reward them with a Pizza Point, noted on their digital coupon. When they’ve reached 10 Pizza Points that’s when you reward their loyalty with a free pizza and hopefully you’ll have turned a passive customer into a loyal one.

Mobile and contactless payments are coming…it’s time to get excited!

Let’s end by throwing a few stats out there from the 2014 National Restaurant Association Technology Innovations Consumer Study:

  • 33% of 25-34 year olds say they expect to use their smartphone to pay at restaurants.
  • 27%of consumers order from a restaurant’s website or app at least once a month.
  • 31% of consumers use mobile devices to view menus at least once a month.
  • 35% of QSR and 20% of Fast Casual restaurants currently offer mobile payment options.

The bottom line is for consumers and quick serve restaurants, contactless adoption is behavioral. Using contactless-equipped smartphones to make payments will be adopted BECAUSE it can make the payment process simpler and sleeker.

The good news is the more contactless payments are adopted by consumers, the more opportunities you have to increase sales in your restaurant.