NFC technology moves into restaurants
Other restaurant industry players, including Tim Hortons and Jamba Juice, are testing or supporting mobile payment platforms that rely on a still limited but growing number of smartphone models equipped with near-field communication (NFC) chips. Those chips help wirelessly transfer payment card information to in-store payment readers.
Gartner said it expects NFC transactions, which require the cooperation of multiple stakeholders, to remain relatively low through 2015, although growth will start to pick up from 2016.
Earlier this month, Oakville, Ontario-based Tim Hortons said the bakery-cafe chain helped make Canadian business history when the first mobile credit card transaction in that country took place at one of its downtown Toronto units. Canadian Olympic triathlete Simon Whitfield purchased a Tim Hortons coffee by tapping an in-store contactless payment card reader with an NFC-equipped BlackBerry smartphone from cellular carrier Rogers that was loaded with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce credit card account information.
Tim Hortons said it is ready for such mobile-device payments, as the chain has put payment card reader terminals in approximately 2,300 Canadian locations, to date, and expects to have them in a total of 3,000, or most of its home-market stores, by the end of December. "We are always looking to bring innovative options that offer our guests more convenience and faster ways to pay,” David Clanachan, the company's chief operating officer, said in a statement. He added that the chain believes “Canadians will increasingly embrace the opportunity to make mobile payments.”
Other restaurants are testing NFC mobile payment technology through Isis, a joint venture by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless. Late last month Isis launched pilots for its Mobile Wallet at hundreds of businesses in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas. To complete transactions, consumers tap a merchant’s contactless payment card reader terminal with their NFC-chip-equipped Android smartphone loaded with security software and credit card information.
The Jamba Juice chain of Emeryville, Calif., has multiple locations accepting Isis virtual wallet payments in the test markets. Janice Duis, senior director of corporate communications for chain parent Jamba Inc., said it is too early in the Isis trial to discuss the number of transactions involved or the technology’s impact on average check or visit frequency, if any. She noted that Jamba Juice’s involvement in the Isis test — as is its testing of Google Wallet and PayPal payment options in other markets — is “about being convenient [to use] and providing options for payments to consumers.”
Though dozens of McDonald’s restaurants were initially included on a list of merchants slated to accept Isis mobile payments in Salt Lake City and Austin, their participation was delayed. “We have not finalized all agreements with Isis regarding our restaurants being a part of their pilot,” said Danya Proud, a representative of chain parent McDonald’s Corp. of Oak Brook, Ill.
“Our restaurants do have technical capabilities related to near-field communications, but we are still working through how mobile payments can easily be integrated into our ordering/payment systems for our customers and our crew,” Proud explained.
"Isis is going to stimulate putting millions of mobile devices with NFC technology [into the hands of consumers]," said Vanderhoof. "Even if Isis fails, the residual benefits of NFC will find a home for many other applications that will deliver one-way or two-way data anytime, anywhere it is needed for consumers."