This past week it was revealed that leading US-based online real-time restaurant-reservation service OpenTable will soon introduce mobile payment features to its app, allowing diners at a small number select restaurants using the OpenTable system to pay for their meals with their phones.
If the announcement was in any way surprising, it was only because the company hasn’t already aggressively moved to leverage its position to take advantage of the rapidly-growing use of m-payments in the restaurant space.
Around the world restaurants, home-delivery specialists and other related businesses have emerged as one of the most dynamic areas for mobile payments.
While aggregate data on transaction numbers remains thin, and m-payments lag the use of apps for just ordering food, a growing number of surveys show consumers keen to make the switch from cash and card payments to m-payments when dining out or ordering in. One recent poll also found that 98% of diners who have paid a restaurant bill with a mobile device were likely to do so again. Overall, convenience and speed are viewed as the most compelling reasons for settling bills with m-payments, but there are other attractions for consumers, including not having to deal with servers when paying, better security, and wanting to better keep track of transactions.
For restaurateurs, m-payments can mean greater productivity, as diners check themselves out rather than wait on a server, thereby increasing the number of “turns” for each table. They also facilitate the collection of a range of valuable data, including the frequency of diners’ visits and their favorite dishes and drinks, thereby offering exceptional opportunities for loyalty programs.
It is because of these different priorities that restaurants and other firms now face a bewildering number of options and competing products when seeking to add m-payments to the menu. Just to cite a few of the dizzying array of apps, there is Dash, which – as its name implies – is geared towards restaurants with diners who are in a hurry, and Elecarte, which comes as a package with tablet devices that patrons use for ordering. Some, like Cover, allow users to set default amounts for tips, while one called Tabbedout (above) promises servers a minimum guaranteed basic gratuity. Some use QR codes, others Bluetooth Low Energy. Some allow multiple diners to split a single check. Others are focused on perfecting the technology necessary for a patron to walk into a restaurant and automatically have a “tab” opened for them.
Cellum, which has been involved in developing m-payment applications for clients in the space on several continents – including an app linking a large Asian mobile operator with a national coffee shop chain – advises its clients to conform to the reality of local habits and tastes. At the same time, there are some rules that are universal, the key one being that any m-payment option needs to be easier and more convenient than the traditional process of settling a check.
And, needless to say, it’s always a good idea to offer diners something tasty to eat.