Restaurant Briefing: How Mobile Payment is Evolving

Promote Your Business Restaurant Industry By American Express February 27, 2015

With seven out of 10 Americans now owning smartphones, mobile payment for restaurant meals is becoming more widespread. Many foodservice operations (including Wendy’s, Burger King and Chick-fil-A) have added mobile payment to their apps just in the past few months; platforms like Apple Pay are also growing. In response to these new options, the proportion of consumers using their smartphone or other mobile device to pay for restaurant meals has almost doubled in the past year. What’s more, consumers are using mobile payment in new ways—inside the restaurant rather than just remotely.

Nearly two-tenths of consumers polled (19%) now say they have paid for a restaurant meal via a mobile phone or device at least once, compared to slightly more than a tenth (11%) of those surveyed at the same time in 2014.

Changing Usage Patterns

Smartphone users are increasingly employing mobile payment systems in-store as a way to bypass the line at the counter. When asked to list ways they have paid for restaurant meals via a mobile device, nearly half (46%) report they’ve utilized their phone to pay for their meal inside the restaurant with an app like Google Wallet, Apple Pay or Softcard; at the same time a year ago, only a fifth of respondents had done so. In-store payment via the restaurant’s own app is also rising significantly (42% report having used the restaurant’s payment app in-store, compared to 31% of those polled in 2014.) And the proportion who report having used mobile payment in the restaurant via another system has more than doubled in a year.

On the other hand, the proportion of consumers who report using the restaurant’s app to pay for pickup or delivery orders is down, and the percentage using ordering and payment systems like GrubHub for takeout or delivery has barely increased.

Mobile Payments

Satisfaction is High and Rising

The vast majority of those who have used their smartphones to pay for a restaurant meal want to continue doing so: 96% say they’re at least somewhat likely to use mobile payment again, and two-thirds say they’re very likely to do so. In the past year, satisfaction rates have held steady among men and increased among women.

Mobile Payment

Above all, consumers see convenience as the key value of smartphone payment. But beyond that, men and women seem to value different aspects of the mobile payment experience. Males are far more likely than females to appreciate the speed it offers. Women place more value on linking payment to the restaurant’s loyalty program and on using mobile payment as part of an overall smartphone-centered, cash-free lifestyle.

Mobile Payments

Bottom line: Mobile payment for restaurant meals is accepted by most consumers. Available payment options and adoption by diners will increase and evolve in coming years.



Business-Building Implications:

  • While mobile payment in foodservice is here to stay, platforms are changing rapidly. For instance, the proportion of consumers reporting usage of apps like Google Wallet, Apple Pay and Softcard in restaurants has more than doubled in a year. It will probably become essential for your company to offer mobile payment options. But before taking the plunge, research what forms of payment are appropriate for your brand positioning and customer base. Your dedicated restaurant app? Services from trusted technology companies, such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet? Or all of the above?
  • Growing usage of mobile payment in stores (rather than just for advance payment of pickup and delivery orders) will transform the POS experience, lowering customer tolerance for slow or inaccurate service. Consider separate pickup lines for orders that have been prepaid via smartphones. (Separation of mobile orders from others is particularly important at concepts with “made-for-you” formats, since customers seen to be “jumping ahead of the line” could stir resentment in others.) As the POS experience becomes more high-tech and impersonal, you may also want to step up staff training and rewards for friendly, helpful service.
  • Customers value the linking of mobile payment to the restaurant’s rewards program. For operators, tying a loyalty program to detailed information about members’ visits and orders offers a gold mine of data. You can use this information for more granular tracking of which locations, dayparts, menu items and promotions appeal to which types of customers; you can also observe in real time the response to location-based LTOs and special offers, and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Given recent data breaches, consumers are increasingly anxious about maintaining privacy and security of their personal information. Security technology is changing rapidly. Work closely with your IT department and mobile payment service providers to ensure that you and your customers are not vulnerable; don’t neglect periodic security patches and audits.



Data was collected and analyzed by Technomic Inc., based on a nationally representative survey of 500 consumers conducted by internet in January 2015. If you have questions, comments or topic suggestions, please contact Jackie Dulen Rodriguez at or directly at (312) 506-3934.