Fast-food and takeout restaurants would seem to be the most eager to adopt digital wallets like Masterpass, Visa Checkout and PayPal that have the potential to speed their customers along. So why aren't more of these wallets on the menu?

So far just a handful of national restaurant chains have deployed either of the big networks’ digital wallets, perhaps wary of the costs and logistics inherent with any changes in payments technology.

According to Mastercard, this is the way it should be. By taking a methodical approach focusing on fewer retailers and issuers, the card network hopes to appeal to consumers that might otherwise feel overwhelmed with choice.

Subway sandwich restaurant
Subway is one of the few national restaurant chains to fully support Masterpass Bloomberg News

On the issuer side, Masterpass can support multiple credit and debit cards from any network or bank, and more than 100 million consumers have enrolled directly through banks including Bank of America, Citi and Capital One. Mastercard’s theory is that having banks’ direct support will drive more routine usage of the digital wallet.

“We find that consumers are much more willing to use Masterpass if their bank is directly involved, and that bank trust drives ongoing digital wallet usage, which is our goal as we gradually build Masterpass out as an omnichannel payment solution,” said Tor Opedal, senior business leader in charge of U.S. restaurant payments at Mastercard.

On the merchant side, only three national restaurant chains—Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts and Cheesecake Factory—have fully adopted Masterpass since its launch more than four years ago in what appears to be a glacially slow rollout of Mastercard’s payment service in the physical world (Masterpass has had much wider adoption with e-commerce merchants).

It’s a similar story for Visa, with only five fast-food chains—in addition to Dunkin’ Donuts—on board with Visa Checkout. Visa's other customers are Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Papa John's, Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks.

Nevertheless, fast-food and quick-service restaurants are vital to Masterpass’ success, said Opedal, who previously worked at Arby's in senior management roles.

“Restaurants are a very complex vertical when it comes to making changes in payments technology, and considering the industry’s current constraints juggling adoption of EMV, mobile payments and end-to-end encryption, we’re seeing very good headway with Masterpass,” Opedal said.

The restaurant category is so important for Masterpass because purchase frequency means it could be a major “gateway” for consumers’ initial enrollment and ongoing usage of the digital wallet, according to Opedal.

And Mastercard’s preferred method of enrolling consumers in Masterpass differs significantly from that of rival wallets like Visa and PayPal, which have users sign up via a website to link multiple cards.

Through its “digital by default” strategy, Mastercard directs consumers enrolling for the first time with Masterpass to link a card from their own bank from a list of financial institutions that support the digital wallet. Consumers may also enroll any payment card through the Masterpass website.

Mastercard expects to see more restaurants adding Masterpass in the coming months, as offering broader payments options becomes a competitive advantage.

Dunkin’ Donuts recently became the first fast-food marketer to support both Masterpass and Visa Checkout through all channels and devices. It hasn’t yet added PayPal.

“We want to feature payment methods that our consumers want to use for payment, but we’re still in the early stages of digital wallet adoption and will continue to evaluate other platforms and opportunities” said Scott Hudler, Dunkin’ Donuts’ chief digital officer.

But don’t look for a stampede of restaurants adopting digital payments. Existing logistics suggest fast-food and takeout restaurants will likely continue to move at a snail’s pace, analysts say.

“For most restaurants, online ordering is still a pretty small percentage of their business,” said Rick Oglesby, president of AZ Payments Group.

Masterpass—which has been through several iterations since its 2013 launch—also still lacks broad visibility with consumers, he suggested.

“Even when online payments are a significant percentage of volume, Masterpass isn’t yet the payment service of choice for most consumers, Oglesby said.

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