Are Diners Finding Mobile Payments Options Unappealing?

March 9, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

We’ve been following developments in mobile order-ahead / mobile payments options for restaurants here for some time, owing largely to their ability to speed up a dining experience and get some of the unpleasant parts of it out of the way faster, like waiting for someone to actually bring a bill to your table. New reports, however, suggest that mobile order and pay options aren’t being put to use very often, even where available.

Perhaps the starkest point of this report was that customers, when visiting a Starbucks location, only used mobile payments just under one time in three, or 30 percent. Out of that already-slim number, not even 10 percent used the Order Ahead and Pay feature.

That’s got a lot of outside viewers puzzled; why not use such features? The benefits to the customer are clear enough, and anyone who’s ever pulled in a dinner from GrubHub or one of its competitors already knows how simple it is. The added features—store finders, location-specific deals, loyalty program tie-ins that keep track of customer orders and automatically apply rewards later—are also worth noting.

Inevitable speculation followed; it can’t be an issue with smartphone penetration. Most everyone in the United States who has a smartphone wants one. Some have projected app overload, and this isn’t outlandish. After all, most smartphone users will stick to the first few apps on their touchscreen display; we knew this much in the early days of mobile payments.

It was a phenomenon some thought might limit the overall size of the mobile payments market, though plenty thought exceptions might be made for store-branded apps. Based on these reports, that may not be the case. Additionally, there’s one other point: the  in-store experience may have driven some users off altogether. Users still have to pick up their order, and after going through the lines in the store to get that order, some may have just decided not to come back, through app or in person.

Whether it’s a lack of interest, education, or just a decent store experience, it’s clear mobile order-ahead isn’t catching on the way it likely should. Potential fixes for this problem run the gamut, but something needs to be done lest a good idea go sour before its time.