While mobile payments have been available for the restaurant industry for the past few years, restaurants were slow to adopt them, especially compared to other industries. And then COVID hit.
The immediate need for reduced interaction between waitstaff and guests, increased efficiency and lower overhead is what brought mobile payment solutions to the forefront.
But it’s more than just payments. There’s several added benefits that came along with mobile payments that most restauranteurs did not anticipate: a surge of guest adoption that drove increased traffic, increased tipping, and increased spending.
What’s driving the surge? Customer Experience.
The very thing that was holding the restaurant industry back on adopting technology became the thing that ended up catapulting engagement. And that’s meeting customer experiences in a way that they expect.
What do I mean by that?
For the past several decades, the hospitality industry has believed that customer experience is in-person, face-to-face, physical interactions. But what other industries have proven over the past 10 years is that customer experience goes far beyond the in-person exchange.
Customers have become increasingly digital, and as a result the experience they expect is a mix of in-person and digital offerings. In fact, 74% of consumers in a survey stated they prefer to use their phone to pay for food. So while the physical interaction may feel important to the restaurant, it’s not an important driver for experience with consumers.
Let’s look at the airline industry with Delta – it’s similar in how they provide hospitality, but radically different in how they provide customer experiences.
Historically, the only way to check into a flight was to stand in a long line to wait for a person to help you. That was also the only way you could pay for a checked bag and get your seat assignment. And while we were greeted by a person, the wasted time spent waiting around for that person to be able to help us caused more friction and distaste than the face-to-face interaction made up for.
Then Delta digitized this entire process with an app and gave all their customers the gift of time. Now I’m able to check into my flight, pay for my bags, see my seat assignment, and get real-time updates on my gate and departure time right in the app. I don’t have to wait in line when I arrive at the airport — I drop my pre-paid bag off at the kiosk, walk through security, and head to my gate. It’s seamless, it meets me where I expect the experience to be, and it allows me to enjoy the personal engagements that much more.
The restaurant industry is finally seeing this for themselves. Having a digital solution that allows your guest to pull up their check the moment they sit down, transparently see the information that’s been added, and pay whenever they’re ready gives them that same gift of time and meets them where they expect the experience to be.
How significant is that time?
According to Lumina data, speed of service is a key driver for consumers when eating out. The average time it takes to finish a meal, ask for the bill, and pay that bill takes between 12 and 17 minutes. That’s 12-17 minutes of friction that’s bringing down your level of customer experience. Even if you had the opportunity to physically present them a check and say thank you, that’s not going to make up for the annoying delays (in fact, I vividly remember all the times I was late due to waiting for my physical check, but I’ve never once had a thank you leave a lasting impression). That’s why QR codes at the end of the receipt aren’t working for restaurants — they’re more of the same experience. Consumer apps like Vēmos Pay put the power in the consumers hands and allows this waiting time to disappear, increasing the perception of experience of their overall visit.
So how does this translate to increased traffic & sales?
Customers continue to go where they have great experiences. That’s always been the case with restaurants & hospitality, and that part hasn’t changed. When you deliver customer experiences in a way that they expect — both physically and digitally — you win in multiple ways.
When it comes to mobile payments, joining a consumer-facing app has shown to unlock many residual benefits beyond paying a check:
Get discovered. Consumer apps like Vēmos Pay have thousands of users on them already. Getting listed on these apps allows you to show up to these consumers who are already enjoying contactless payments elsewhere and shows them that your experience is in line with what they’re looking for.
Increase cost per head. Time is money. Literally. Mobile payments reduce the wait time after finishing a meal, which not only means faster table turns, but also an increase in spend and tips. That’s because mobile payment apps provide transparency for what’s on the check throughout the meal. This has proven in many studies to increase the guest’s overall spend. Mobile payment apps also auto calculate tip percentages, which has proven to increase tips for your staff.
Integrate loyalty. You can now turn mobile payments into loyalty without having to manage a separate system. You already have a line of communication with your customers with a history of Sku level purchases, which allows you to promote your deals and offer rewards directly to your guests while they’re in the venue making purchasing decisions. This allows you to unlock the power that the Starbucks app has created without needing to build it yourself.
Repeatable business. Not only do all of the above increase customer experience that drives them to come back, but 84% of Americans are more likely to go back to brands to redeem an offer, with 57% spending more with those brands. It’s this cycle of reduced friction from eliminating wait times, increased experience from allowing guests to pay on their own terms, and driving loyalty through that same system that’s driving traffic and increasing sales.