The whole world’s going mobile app. There’s no denying it. Forget looking something up online via a laptop. These days, everything is done via your smartphone. Want to look up movie times? One-click your Fandango app. Single and interested in online dating? Don’t waste your time looking into Match or eHarmony through your laptop. That’s sooooo 2012.
More and more, the fast food industry is getting into the mobile app phenomenon, specifically mobile payment apps. Recently, both the second- and third-largest U.S. burger chains — Wendy’s and Burger King — announced that they would roll out a mobile payment app for use at U.S. locations. This followed an announcement that Starbucks would revamp its mobile payment app by adding digital tipping, a new interface, and a shake-to-pay feature. And following an initial test in Orange County, Subway restaurants in California have been testing a mobile app that’s been downloaded by approximately 400,000 customers.
This growing trend comes as payments via mobile phones are becoming more commonplace at U.S. retail outlets. The reasons are simple: The technology is improving, there are mounting concerns over the security of traditional card payments, and mobile wallets are now able to store card information on phones in encrypted form.
That’s why, according to a report by PaymentsSource, 14% of Starbucks’ in-store customers now pay using the company’s mobile app, up from 10% last summer. And it’s why mobile-payment users in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Spain spend roughly twice as much through all digital channels than mobile payment non-users, according to a recent study by Bain & Co.
Even McDonald’s, which is known in the industry for its meticulous planning of any changes and is only in the testing phase of its own mobile app, acknowledged at a recent investor conference that it would have to jump on this trend soon — even with an app that may not be 100% perfect — because waiting would mean missing the opportunity entirely.
The fast food industry is going mobile app. If you favorite fast food joint doesn’t offer one yet, sit tight. It’s coming.
Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.