As consumers, we’ve come to expect the best, fastest and most personalized service, no ifs, ands or buts about it.
The latest Harris Interactive data reveals that consumers are increasingly inclined to frequent restaurants that create this kind of customer-first experience. More Americans – 64 percent – now eat at quick-service restaurants than any other type of establishment.
While this desire on the part of consumers may create a sense of unease for QSRs, mobile payment industry experts simply see this migration as part of an overarching trend that has already affected other industries. Restaurants, it turns out, are just the latest in a long line of establishments that now need to embrace innovation to reimagine the customer experience.
“We view the mobile device as unlocking for QSRs that same self-service opportunity that you’ve seen in other segments – in banking, in ticketing at pay-at-the-pump at gas stations,” Ken Paull, CEO of Boston-based mobile payment platform ROAM, told PYMNTS.com (Jump to 0:47). “The ability for the customer to be able to order and pay from their own device really changes where the transaction is taking place, so they can order and pay ahead of time.”
Still, despite the available solutions, not all QSR owners are convinced these investments will attract customers and improve the customer experience.
To find out more about what’s driving the mobile shift for QSRs, how restaurant owners are accommodating mobile solutions, and more importantly, whether consumers are actually using these services, Market Platform Dynamics (MPD) CEO Karen Webster asked both Paull and Noah Glass, founder and CEO of online ordering specialist OLO, to share their insights, analysis and findings from the field.
What’s Driving The Mobile Shift For QSRs?
Glass and Paull offered a two-pronged answer to the question, with Glass addressing why consumers are embracing mobile while Paull focused on merchants trends. According to Glass, for today’s increasingly smartphone-enabled consumers, mobile is all about saving time and avoiding lines.
“The brand promise that we’re giving to customers is, by having control over the ordering process, by being able to dictate when you place the order, when you want to collect it, you can save time,” Glass told Webster in an exclusive interview (Jump to 6:23).
Further, Glass provided evidence that this pitch is working. Glass said that though it took OLO nearly seven years to attract 1 million customers to its service, it’s added the same number of new users over the last six months.
How Should QSRs Accommodate Mobile Customers?
To this question, Paull noted that curbside pickup is one big trend ROAM has observed, but that it’s only one in a variety of mobile payment use cases QSRs are adopting. Paull noted that mobile payments systems are gaining traction at big businesses like football stadiums, but are increasingly being positioned as “business continuity” solutions for smaller merchants.
“That’s really driving things lately, the ability to utilize a very low-cost solution as a backup or contingency to operations in small-footprint stores,” Paull said (Jump to 7:48).
Further, Glass suggested that merchants need to embrace not only pre-ordering, but prepaying. QSRs, according to Glass, should consider setting aside a special pickup counter for these customers, where mobile buyers can simply give their name, collect their order and expedite services inside the restaurant.
But, Are Consumers Really Waiting Less?
Neither Paull nor Glass provided hard data to answer this question, but both talked at length about how QSRs can use mobile in multiple ways to reduce customer wait time.
The most prominent of these solutions are ASAP ordering, where consumers pick up the order as soon as its available, and scheduled pickups, where the consumer arrives at the restaurant for his or her order at a specific time.
Still, with mobile solutions just reinventing the restaurant experience, there’s much that remains uncertain about what the QSRs of the future will provide.
What advice did Paull and Glass give to QSRs who are thinking about mobile solutions? For this answer, and Webster’s takeaways from the discussion, listen to the full podcast below.
*If you have trouble with the audio player above, click here.
Ken Paull, CEO of ROAM
Ken has over 20 years in senior management roles in the electronic payments industry including senior vice president at RBS Lynk (now WorldPay), vice president at Triton Systems and general manager at VeriFone. He was responsible for building and rapidly growing what is now WorldPay’s national account payments division while also directing the turnaround of what had been a declining ATM processing business. While at Triton, the company surpassed NCR as the second largest domestic ATM supplier and also became the global leader in retail ATM deployments. At VeriFone, Ken built their major account, retail division which has become one of the largest segments of their business. Most recently, Ken has held positions of board director at Access to Money, director at Market Platform Dynamics and president of Pax. A native of the Boston area, Ken holds a B.S. in Marketing and Communications from Babson College, as well as an MBA in Telecommunications Management from Golden Gate University.
Noah Glass is the Founder and CEO of OLO Online Ordering (www.olo.com), the fastest-growing self-service ordering provider for the foodservice industry.
Noah Glass, CEO and Founder, OLO
Glass began working in the foodservice industry more than fifteen years ago, serving as a cashier, server, bartender, and delivery driver before founding OLO in 2005.
OLO’s clients include Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Cold Stone Creamery, Noodles & Company and over 150 restaurant brands. OLO was dubbed “Fandango for Food” by New York Magazine, and today more than 3 million customers use OLO to order ahead and get food faster at their favorite restaurants.
Glass graduated from Yale University with a degree in Political Science and is well-known for having withdrawn his admission to Harvard Business School to start OLO.
Glass lives in New York City with his wife, Maeve. He is an avid Oakland Athletics fan. Learn more at www.olo.com