Recent moves from Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Burger King, Starbucks and Panera indicate that restaurant brands are implementing mobile initiatives at increasing rates. Operators that want to join the race to roll out mobile ordering or payment solutions should first consider the following questions.

5 questions on mobile payments

1. Do you invest in your own hardware and/or software?

“In some cases, it might make more sense for the restaurant to develop its own software, their own app, their own proprietary approach to it,” said Aaron Allen, a consultant with Aaron Allen & Associates LLC. “In other cases, it might make more sense to connect into existing technologies out there and use APIs [application program interfaces] to make the two talk.”


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2. Who is going to host, manage and process payments?

Some restaurant operators choose to use existing services such as Google Wallet, Apple’s Passbook, Square or PayPal, Allen said.

3. What data are you getting? Who owns the data? Where is it stored?

The potential for data mining and drawing on demographic data is something a midsized restaurant operator might want to have in-house, Allen said.

4. How safe and secure is the data? What are the security levels?

Payment processing security is paramount, and operators must have clear assurances that their customers’ data is secure, Allen said.

5. What are the transaction costs?

If using a third party, transaction costs can vary widely. Allen urged operators of all sizes to shop around and weigh all factors.

5 questions on mobile ordering

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1. Do you develop the application in-house or seek an outside vendor?

Irving, Calif.-based Taco Bell developed its own “Live Más” platform rather than opting for off-the-shelf solutions, which could have been a quicker way to bring mobile ordering to fruition. Customers at the 5,300 U.S. units can customize menu selections, and the app offers “smart upsell” opportunities, suggesting a drink or dessert if the user hasn’t ordered one. To ensure that the food is prepared when the guest arrives, the system uses a GPS locator to recognize when the person placing the order is near and gives the kitchen a signal to fire the order.

2. Have you set success metrics?

Companies of all sizes need to set goals at the outset to measure how successful the ordering platform is, Aaron Allen of Aaron Allen & Associates LLC said.

3. What kind of budget can you allocate?

The budget depends on the size of the restaurant chain and whether franchisees’ point-of-sale equipment is compatible.

4. How do you capture the biggest audience quickly?

A successful marketing program for the new platform must be in place to let customers know it’s available.

5. Should you link mobile ordering to a loyalty program?

Because mobile platforms can provide demographic data on each customer, coordination with a marketing program can be beneficial, Allen said.