How emerging payments technologies are changing the fast food industry

How emerging payments technologies are changing the fast food industry

Cover photo: istock

By Chris Francis, VP of Market Development, Wordplay US

In 1916, a cook by the name of Walt A. Anderson built the first White Castle in Wichita, Kansas. The restaurant's low cost and unparalleled speed helped spark the rise of fast food, which has since turned into a $225 billion industry. But while fast food is still the quickest way hungry diners can satisfy their appetites, the industry has hit a bit of a speed bump – at least when it comes to payments.

Traditional payment options such as debit and credit cards can't seem to keep up with the pace at which fast food and quick service restaurants deliver orders today. New payments technologies, including contactless and card-not-present payment options, aim to fix that.

Contactless payments

The perfect blend of speed and security, contactless payment options make it easy for restaurant owners to improve the dining experience while also cutting costs. Rather than digging through their purse or wallet, customers can simply tap their phone, wristband or key fob over a contactless reader on a payment terminal and complete a transaction within seconds. No PIN or signature is required, making for a quick and convenient payment.

When it comes to security, contactless payment options include many different features designed to stop fraud in its tracks. For example, mobile devices have “virtual” card numbers assigned to them, valid only on those devices.  If the device is lost or stolen, the “virtual” card number can be shut down – without impacting the “real” card number or any other mobile devices.  Consumers who experience the convenience when paying bills also benefit from that convenience when things go wrong.


Card-not-present payment options have drawn a great deal of attention within the past few years – and rightfully so. By enabling diners to complete transactions over the internet, card-not-present payment options cater directly to the fast-paced lifestyles of today's diners. Although it costs more for restaurant owners to process online payments, that doesn't diminish the value of card-not-present payment options. The majority of diners order more online or through an app than they do in person. These additional orders more than make up for the higher fees associated with card-not-present transactions.

Cloud-based payments

It doesn't get much more convenient than cloud-based payment options. Prominently featured in Amazon's brick-and-mortar stores, cloud-based payment options allow diners to walk in, grab their order and walk out without ever stopping to pay. Wondering what the catch is? Good news, there is none. The technology uses a series of sensors to detect what items customers select, meaning no more waiting in line to checkout. For diners who often have only a few minutes to grab lunch, cloud-based payments options couldn't be better.

Restaurant owners also benefit from cloud-based payment technology. In fact, it often provides restaurant owners with meaningful insights based on customer orders. That data can be used to optimize a wide range of restaurant operations, including inventory management and menu creation.

Innovative technologies are making for a more convenient payments experience than ever before. But before implementing one or more of these payment options, it's important that restaurant owners consider some of the challenges accompanying them. Front- and back-of-house staff members, for example, will need to be educated on how to use the new payment technology.

In a similar fashion, restaurant owners should consider whether a specific payment option fits within their restaurant. Those that wish to promote a more relaxed dining experience will choose a different payment technology than restaurant owners trying to get diners in and out as quickly as possible. Careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of each available payments option will enable restaurant owners to find the one that best meets the needs and preferences of their diners.

Topics: Card Brands, Contactless / NFC, Handsets / Devices, In-App Payments, Loyalty Programs, Mobile/Digital Wallet, POS, Restaurants, Trends / Statistics

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