Mobile Payments in Restaurants – 2015 Consumer Study

In advance of the NRA Show in Chicago on May 16-19, 2015, Coyle conducted the following survey about mobile payments in restaurants. We will have an industry leading panel of restaurant executives on hand at Coyle’s Education Session: “How Technology is Changing the Restaurant Customer Experience” taking place on Saturday, May 16th at 10AM at Booth 5575 at McCormick Place in Chicago!   

To schedule an appointment at NRA Show, click here.

It is no surprise that just about everyone has a smartphone these days.  And when it comes to apps, if you can think of it, there’s an app for it. Mobile payment apps are becoming more pervasive, penetrating more venues, and restaurant payment apps are the latest “new thing.” As these offerings increase and restaurants offer the option, are diners ready to embrace them as well?


In a recent online survey performed by Coyle Hospitality Group among 1311 frequent restaurant goers, while nearly everyone owned a smartphone, only one in ten has paid for a table service restaurant check using their phone. However, if this option were available, three quarters said they would like to pay their restaurant check with their smartphone at least some of the time.

Interest in using this payment method ranged across a variety of venues – from four in ten expressing interest in using a payment app in bars, five in ten in fine dining establishments or quick service spots, and six in ten in fast casual or casual dining venues.

Only 15% of our surveyed population currently have apps to facilitate restaurant check payments, with OpenTable being the most popular among those surveyed. However six in ten said they would be interested in apps that facilitate payments at the restaurant table. And what is driving this interest? Primarily it is convenience; as summed up by one, “A great meal is often ruined by then having to wait for the bill when the server has become too busy with other tables and you can’t catch their attention… This solves the problem beautifully.”  It allows diners to take control of wrapping up the experience and is especially useful for those in a hurry.


However, in spite of this expressed interest, consumers have some reservations regarding restaurant payment apps, and security is the number one concern. Only a third feel mobile payment apps are secure and the fear of “being hacked” tamps down consumer enthusiasm. “The idea of mobile payments is a nice one, however I don’t think the security risk is low enough for me to fully embrace it yet.”  

A second barrier to use is the impact on the whole dining experience. At Coyle, we help our restaurant client ensure a best-in-breed dining experience.  It is interesting for us to note that only about one third feel that payment with their smartphone will positively impact the dining experience. Some feel it may detract from the experience, limiting their interaction with the server and the feeling of being waited upon. Others say they purposely avoid using their smartphone in a restaurant. “The experience of a restaurant is not made better by the presence of any phone.”

How open are diners to the idea of being tracked in some fashion? Some are comfortable to a degree, especially if they benefit through some type of rewards program, but others balk at the idea of yet more loss of privacy. “Restaurants do not need access to our personal information and habits. We have enough of that with apps keeping our info and selling it.” Seven in ten are comfortable with the restaurant keeping their name, special occasion dates, and email address, but only about two in ten are comfortable with the restaurant keeping their spend history or dining history or their address, and only one in ten are comfortable with tracking their tips amount.


How quickly restaurant payment apps will be adopted remains to be seen. Some consumers see this as the inevitable wave of the future and they are ready to ride that wave, others are adopting a wait and see approach, and until they are reassured of the security and convinced of the benefits, they will rely on more traditional means of paying their bill.

Coyle Hospitality Group provides intelligently designed mystery shopping programs to the world’s top restaurants, hotels, and businesses that value the customer experience.  Part of the “Coyle Difference” is keeping ahead of restaurant trends and innovations.  Clients who partner with Coyle can be certain that their mystery shopping and quality assurance programs are the right fit today and in the future. To find out how Coyle can help your company gain actionable customer insights, contact us today.

© 2024 Coyle Hospitality Group. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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