Restaurants back MCX startup
A more recent development in mobile payments is the Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX, a startup announced in August by backers, including Darden Restaurants Inc., Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., on-site feeder HMSHost Corp., and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The founding companies have yet to disclose what technologies will be used by MCX or when a pilot test of the mobile payment platform might begin.
To date, little information has been released about the Merchant Customer Exchange except the pedigree of its backers. But there is little doubt that companies such as Darden, Dunkin’ and HMSHost were attracted to MCX by virtue of its backing by merchants —as opposed to third parties looking to profit from merchants — and the promise by founders that its features set will be drafted with merchants’ needs in mind, including support for promotions and retail programs.
“Darden joined MCX because we believe MCX is uniquely positioned to provide the type of mobile payment solution that will best serve customers and merchants alike, providing even greater convenience for our guests,” said Rich Jeffers, director of communications for the parent to the Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse chains, among others.
However, Vanderhoof pointed out, "MCX is cloaked in secrecy and can’t be considered a viable competitor until they reveal what it is and how it will be different from other proven technologies available today."
Rather than tying in with startup mobile payment platforms aiming for the mass market, some restaurant chains are letting guests pay for their meals using smartphones loaded with proprietary software. Among them is Carrollton, Texas-based T.G.I. Friday’s, which earlier this year empowered guests at 300 restaurants to complete transactions using its My Friday’s Tab mobile app.
“The bottom line is that it is still early in the game,” acknowledged Holman regarding the overall state of mobile payment technology in restaurants. “But it’s an exciting game.”