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Pros & Cons of Customers Paying with an iPhone App in Restaurants

The new Pizza Express app lets diners pay using iPhone. Paying with a smartphone seems to be the latest trend for restaurants tapping into the technology scene and trying to keep up with customer's needs. There are some pros and cons for restaurants allowing payment with an iPhone app or placing your food and drink order from an iPhone.

Currently, Pizza Express is using a 12 digit code on the receipt that you can enter to bring up your bill on your smartphone and start the payment process.

Pros of ordering and paying with iPhone apps in restaurants:

  • Speed for the customer
  • Great for anti-social customers or people just looking for a quiet night out who don't want to be interrupted
  • Less labor hours required from servers
  • Ability to flip tables faster
  • Customer's potential ability to check ingredients statement and or nutritional impact
  • Lower tips for servers - perceived less work involved
  • Easier and less embarrassing for the customers to ask for separate cheques
  • Possible errors trying to pay for the whole table
  • Makes it easier for people who are embarrassed to order a bigger plate, or food item, have allergies, etc. in front of a friend or date
  • Makes it easier for customers to look-up food if they are unaware of what it is. (like tagine, coulis, etc.
  • Possibility of a customer profile - order the same as last time? Know what they order and suggest something similar, but different? Sending them offers based on their profile.
  • In a rush, staff may not run down the latest features, look for opportunities to up sell, etc.
  • Opportunity to send people to see what the dishes look like (however, if the food doesn't look like the video/picture...)
  • Ability to remarket to the customer since it will keep customer details
  • Opportunity to send friends an image of their meal
  • Someone could create an app to use for business expenses based on these apps
  • Better for the environment as receipts could be paperless
  • With itemized e-receipts, customers could look at their receipts online to see what they ordered last time
  • Giving customers more options on what they want to do while still providing the classic ways to dine

Cons of ordering and paying with iPhone app in restaurants:

  • Depends on your demographic. Young and hip or seniors?
  • Labor involved setting up the features of the night
  • Need to hire a marketing person or agency to remarket to customers - emails, offers, coupons, etc.
  • Need to hire a tech person to build or  troubleshoot
  • Up sell is limited by what prompts you have online and inability to read customer to upsell.  Also, makes the up sell super-obvious. "Would you like to up size that"
  • Waitstaff could miss out in the visual opportunity to be organized and/or the ability to greet returning customers
  • Less touch points with customer to win them over with excellent service
  • More tapped in to technology customers are the more likely they will leave a review - especially if they've had bad service
  • Flagging down staff to ask questions
  • Bad food experience for the "oh, I forgot" if there aren't any prompts
  • Staff need to be technologically inclined - training costs
  • If it's not set-up right, it may not allow for food allergies making ordering online litigious
  • If wifi is down customers may not be able to pay or could think they paid and it doesn't connect
  • Less revenue. Customers could find online coupons and offers when they were already there and willing to pay full price
  • More dine and dash as customers say they paid online, the server takes the time to check the ePOS, and the customers escape? Or, you alienate customers by making them wait while you check? However, is it really that much different than the billfold - where you can't see if the bill has been paid. Or servers can rudely grab it while the customers are leaving.
  • Customer's own issues with ISPs, phone providers, etc.

Overall, I think giving customer's choice is the best option and tapping into the evolving technology, while still maintaining service levels is important till the app evolves. I'd like to see the average bill price per cover and see if it correlates to the non-tech way of ordering or paying? Sometimes waitstaff are really good at the upsell and sometimes not. Sometimes customers are worried about how they will be perceived if they keep ordering food - but electronically takes away the "blush barrier" Which is better? I'd like to see the data before ordering or paying online.

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