Particularly in the fast-food industry, the menu of mobile capabilities is more super-sized than ever and it's one of the rare payments trends that's actually being driven by the consumer.
"We've noticed an increase in mobile engagement from our guests," said Vince Burchianti, chief financial officer at Firehouse Subs, which has adopted MasterCard's MasterPass digital wallet for online payments, and plans to enable MasterPass for ordering starting this fall. "Mobile and electronic payments are emerging as the next best thing, while keeping Firehouse Subs relevant and attractive to all consumers."
The key for companies like Firehouse Subs and Burger King, which is adding mobile ordering to its digital services, is to design an app that can handle nearly any interaction a consumer would want with the restaurant, said Matt Barr, group head for North America Emerging Payments for MasterCard.
"It's a lot more than just a payments account," Barr said. "With these services, it's a full experience."
For MasterCard, which has expanded MasterPass acceptance to 250,000 merchants in 24 countries, the expanded use cases are a validation of the card network's original positioning of the digital wallet as a broad shopping tool rather than a pure payments app.
"When we announced MasterPass we made an effort to explain that this would help merchants build a digital experience as [Internet-connected] devices become more relevant," Barr said.
For both MasterCard and merchants, the consumer pressure is building to not only offer mobile payments, but other mobile services, Barr said. The quick-service restaurant (QSR) category is a good fit for order-ahead features, since the technology further reduces wait times and lines in an area where fast service is already the expectation, Barr said. MasterCard has also deployed mobile ordering technology at sports venues such as Yankee Stadium, he said.
"It allows consumers to jump the queue and move through faster," Barr said. "At the stadium, you can have the food delivered so you don't miss the game."
The order-ahead craze is clearly growing. This week, PayPal announced an integration with Subway via the chain's mobile app, which was built by PayPal subsidiary Paydiant. Later this year, Subway customers should be able to use the app to order remotely and pay in store at all 27,000 Subway locations in the U.S.
Subway will also enable PayPal's One Touch system, which further streamlines the process of paying through the app.
Starbucks, which accepts one in five of its U.S. in-store payments through its mobile app, is expanding its order-ahead service after seeing it improve in-store traffic in the limited areas where the capability is now supported.
The coffee chain is also using its mobile app and brand recognition to drive its rewards program by giving other merchants the ability to provide Starbucks rewards to their own customers.
"Mobile and digital pay providers are going to be at the forefront of merchants' efforts to design new user experiences around mobility," said Rick Oglesby, a partner at Double Diamond Payments Research. "Loyalty programs and convenience will be two of the most important capabilities, along with security, so we'll continue to see major efforts by the digital payment companies in these areas."