Quick-service restaurant (QSR) managers are a conservative bunch when it comes to payments, new PYMNTS research found. It makes sense — the process of walking up to a counter, ordering food, paying, then taking possession of the meal (or doing pretty much the same thing while in a vehicle in the drive-through) is simple and long-standing. Why mess with that legacy, given all the other problems that come with QSRs, including staffing and making sure food is both fresh and quick for the lunch and dinner rushes?
However, QSR consumers are another matter, according to the recently released PYMNTS Restaurant Readiness Index. That’s a potential source of tension going into 2019 when it comes to QSRs’ ability to keep up with consumer preferences, and hold on to the loyalty of their customers.
Consider some of the findings from the report: When it comes to payment via QSR apps, nearly 91 percent of consumers have had a positive experience with that transaction method. Yet, only about 63 percent of QSR managers said the same thing. A similar digital divide came from some other payment methods as well. Apple Pay, for instance, was viewed positively by about 94 percent of customers, but only 70 percent of QSR managers agreed.
On the other hand, QSR managers tend to view Amazon Pay much more favorably than customers — 75 percent to 50 percent. The workers responsible for the day-to-day operations have a more favorable view of debit cards than customers (93 percent compared with 82 percent), as well as good old-fashioned cash (93 percent to 80 percent) and gift cards (85 percent to 72 percent).
That’s not to say that debit cards and cash receive universal praise from QSR managers.
For those who expressed dislike of debit cards, nearly 67 percent said debit card transactions take too long to complete — hardly an insignificant concern in any industry, but a vital issue in the fast food business. When it came to those who don’t view cash positively, 80 percent simply said they “disliked the method,” while 20 percent cited the high cost of cash. As for those managers not on board with Amazon Pay, 75 percent said the payment method was “too complicated to process.”
Part of the reason for the relatively negative views of QSR managers about new payment methods likely stems from unfamiliarity with those forms, at least in their daily work lives.
“Although customers who use mobile payments are overwhelmingly satisfied with them, it must be noted that QSRs' use of them remains very limited — customers and managers largely agree on this,” noted the PYMNTS research. “More than 40 percent of QSRs take mobile payments, with Apple Pay being the most commonly accepted, but less than 2 percent of QSR customers actually use them. In total, customers' mobile payment use at QSRs is only 5.5 percent.”
If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is — roughly similar gaps existed in retail when eCommerce began to grow, as described in a recent PYMNTS interview with Bypass Co-Founder and CEO Brandon Lloyd. Operations in physical stores didn’t often align with the operations of their online counterparts. Returns of products bought online, for instance, were sometimes impossible to showcase in physical stores. In addition, consumer expectations of digital retail outpaced store manager capabilities.
Retailers are still trying to build stronger ties between their physical and online operations, of course, but the innovation gap is relatively strong in the world of QSRs. That’s largely because back-end operations in QSRs have not been upgraded or synced to provide the technology needed for seamless digital transactions, which can not only satisfy customers who prefer to use newer payment methods, but serve the interests of a QSR business as a whole.
Sure, QSRs are adding what Lloyd called “bolt-on” technology to point-of-sale (POS) and other systems to meet consumer demand for the latest digital features. However, such efforts are not all that seamless — and can lead to “downstream impacts for business, and not great ones,” Lloyd said.
Cash is certainly not going anywhere, and seems likely to persist in the QSR world for longer than in other industries, given the nature of the business. In fact, of those QSR managers who reported positive experiences with cash, about 59 percent said they gave the thumbs-up to that payment method because it represents the preference of their customers. Nearly 11 percent also said that cash saves time when it comes to QSR transactions.
The research gives a glimpse of what the future might hold for QSR payments. For those QSR managers who had a positive view of third-party app transactions, 29 percent said such technology reduces costs. The Amazon Pay fans among those managers found that method to be reflective of consumer preferences (41 percent), quick with order completion (37 percent) and easy to use (15 percent).
Clearly, there is room for growth for digital payments in the QSR world, along with opportunities for innovation.