Experts Share Contactless Payments Trends and Innovations for QSR & Fast Casual

As innovation takes hold across the restaurant ecosystem, nowhere does it affect the guest experience like ordering and payment.

In mid-2021, we sat down with a team of experts in the restaurant technology and payments industries to talk about trends from a variety of perspectives including guest, operator, and multi-unit brand.

Here’s a recap of that discussion.

Current State

Innovation has been crucial throughout 2020 and into 2021. Like our customers, we pivoted to help our customers stay open. Part of that pivot involved innovating. Here are a few highlights of key points we’ve heard from our customers:

  • The need to serve more guests in more ways in the drive-thru
  • Speed of service was never more critical, and it’s the next problem to solve
  • Many customers have turned to line busting to speed up service. When they did, they lost the ability to time every interaction happening in the drive-thru because traditional timers only time the guest between the menu board/speaker post and the window.
  • Order accuracy is the number one request of drive-thru guests. When you line bust to speed up service and increase velocity, you also potentially lose track of associating a particular order with a particular vehicle or guest. This is especially true for merging ‘Y’ or dual-lane drive-thrus. 

Innovation is Today’s Reality and Tomorrow’s Necessity

Speaking of innovations, we’ve been fast-tracking touchless payments solutions, advancements to simplify self-service management of digital menu boards, and tracking speed of service accurately, with or without line busting.

With line busting, brands are losing the industry-standard way of tracking the start and end of a service interaction with fixed copper loops or other types of detectors, because a line buster might be standing anywhere in the lane. Finally, we’ve developed an AI voice solution that helps brands move guests through the drive-thru by automating order taking. 

For a lot of decades, not much changed in fast food. Now we’re seeing exponential changes in short periods of time. Suddenly, disruptors have appeared everywhere: online ordering, delivery, and the like, and it was all accelerated by the Covid pandemic.

We invented a completely new patent-pending drive-thru controller that is powerful enough to connect all your drive-thru hardware and technology and:

  • Process an AI upsell engine, which displays recommendations on DMBs
  • Runs our AI Voice Ordering
  • Runs our camera-based drive-thru timer

We also offer self-order kiosks for indoors and outdoors to help address labor challenges and service times.

Not only are brands trying to improve speed, accuracy and quality in terms of serving guests and preparing food but also addressing trying to do more with less, in light of staffing shortages.

If an order and payment can be accepted online or in an app, it’s going to expedite ordering and payment for that guest and for other guests who patronize the restaurant. Plus, it’s a win for the restaurant because it removes the repetitive transactional steps from a crew member’s duties and gets that customer in and out quickly.

If you look at mobile apps or even mobile payment devices, you start to think about all the ways these can be used to speed up service. Maybe the guest orders while they are in line at the restaurant, or in the parking lot or the lobby, and they don’t even need to join the queue waiting to order at the counter.

All things need to be considered, as innovation is happening at a breakneck pace right now. We’re doing a lot to help brands boost speed of service, ease of payment, and the security that’s all wrapped around it.

Changes in Consumer Behavior

Perhaps the biggest shifts in consumer behavior we’ve ever seen happened during Covid. We did some research during Covid on changes in consumer behavior to see what we could learn and how product and technology innovation could help our customers and their guests.

Delivery became a necessity. And a brand’s ability to execute depended on the maturity of the infrastructure and components they had in place.

Adjustments in service models and guest interactions have been driven by safety, foremost. Where are we? What insights have we learned?

Things like digital wallets are popular and make a lot of sense for everyone. But it’s not necessarily easy, and not all restaurant operators or their partners are prepared to accept these kinds of payment methods.

New Ways of Paying Are Becoming the New Norm

The experiences of Covid that accelerated adoption of mobile wallets, tap-to-pay, order-ahead and pay online/in-app as well as QR code-based touchless payments also pointed out the fact that the ‘old’ ways of paying really were that: old, and we didn’t need them. This has prompted people to continue to adopt and use the newer frictionless payment methods as a matter of habit.

Frictionless experiences are the new gold standard. Payment (and payments) should not get in the way. 

When consumers start going digital in their restaurant experiences, they are entering a realm that they have some semblance of familiarity with, from their online / ecommerce retail experiences.

As guests start to connect a digital experience with the classic brick and mortar physical presence, they recognize how smooth these experiences can be.

What opportunities can we help our customers pursue? What’s the next thing brands should be thinking about?

It’s important to not just get pulled by customers but be ready to lean into what’s next by being prepared.

  • There’s a lot of data in your payments transactions. Be sure to mine it!
  • Look for a frictionless and flexible payments solutions/system
  • Look for systems that work cohesively across all ordering and payment methods and channels: EMV, Wallets, Tap to Pay, Online/In-app, Pay with QR code. Having something that ‘plays nice’ across the board can eliminate disparate systems and the associated costs, while driving insights back to the business
  • Remember the importance of understanding guests and delivering those insights to the business
  • Ongoing change is a sure thing, and new payments and transaction methods will emerge, so work with partners that integrate with your current systems and offer solutions that are future-ready by design

Xenial Offers Payments Innovations

People sometimes misconstrue who Xenial is. We are a restaurant technology company but we are owned by a payments company. So we can offer both but we don’t require you to buy both from us. In other words, you can get technology without requiring our payments, and you can get our payments solutions without necessarily having to buy our technology. But we’re here for both and we’d love to be your single partner, to simplify your life and give you one hand to shake and one call for support. 

Through our parent company, Global Payments, Xenial can offer payments solutions with global reach and award-winning service. Our Touchless Payments solution gives guests no-touch convenience and peace of mind, by using only their Smartphone and a QR code presented for scanning on a digital screen or a printed receipt.