Top 5 Restaurant Mobile Payment Apps

In 2012, QSR, Fast Casual, and full serve restaurants had no compelling reasons to build an iPhone or Android app.  The key design elements featured in most of the current food service apps on the App Store and Android Market are: (1) location listings, (2) a non-integrated loyalty program, (3) store contact information, (4) directions, and (5) basic social media links.  Consumers can find these elements with relative ease online, so why download an app for that functionality?  The simple answer: they won’t.

To Build or Not To Build?
Building a basic, run-of-the-mill mobile app is worse than not building one at all.  Every restaurant strives to boost their image on online review sites, seeking the maximum number of stars possible.  The Apple App Store is just as unforgiving.  Each app receives a rating from one to five stars depending on the reviews given by the app’s users.  A 1-star or 2-star average not only discourages your customers from downloading the app, it tarnishes your brand’s image.  All restaurant brands need to start thinking about building an app experience they can be proud of, an experience that delights their customers.

Why is 2013 different?
2013 is ushering in a new wave of restaurant mobile applications pairing the basic information provided in first generation apps with innovative in-app ordering and mobile payment features.  A simple smartphone payment mechanism that integrates directly with a straightforward loyalty program is the new gold standard in mobile apps.  Customers interact with this new generation of apps every single time they enter the store.  Restaurants have an exciting new opportunity to build seamless interactions between the customer, their smartphone, and their physical assets.  The “second screen experience” lauded for television is coming to the cafe, cupcake shop, and late night burger joint down the block.

Mindshare is Moving Mobile
As Americans spend more and more time staring at the 3-inch screens they take out of their pocket, a new advertising medium is being created.  Those little app icons on a smartphone’s home screen are like billboards on I-95; those logos are all smartphone users see.  The first page of search results on Google sees 94% of the impressions.  Although Apple won’t release equivalent stats for the iPhone home screen, I can imagine the results are similar.  The more you use an app, the closer to the home screen is gets.  Restaurant brands have a short time window to stake a claim on their customers’ home screens.  These 5 innovative restaurant brands are being rewarded for building and launching their own mobile payment apps:

1.  sweetgreen (60 ratings, 5 out of 5 stars)

sweetgreen app store review sweetgreen pay screen sweetgreen splash screen

sweetgreen, the DC-based salad concept and healthy living thought leader, has big plans for national expansion.  After raising $7MM in March 2013, Founders Nicolas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru, and Jonathan Neman have plans to take their 16-location chain nationwide.  sweetgreen engaged the team at LevelUp to build a mobile payment and loyalty app to serve as a foundation element connecting payment with their POS, loyalty program, and customer analytics.  In the two months the app has been live, paying with the sweetgreen app has become part of their culture.  Customer response has been overwhelmingly positive, as highlighted by the 5-star rating and the tweets below:

Tweet1 tweet2 tweet3

Highlighted Features:
1. QR code mobile payment (funds transferred through credit/debit card)
2.  Automatically accruing, custom loyalty program (Spend $100, earn $10)
3.  GPS-enabled store locator
4. Animated rewards tab
5. Built-in charitable giving element
6. Status progression
7. QR code scanning feature to add promotional credit
8. Interactive menu

To get in touch with the team at LevelUp and learn about how they can build your restaurant brand a customized app, fill out this form.

2.  Starbucks (72,802 ratings, 3.5 out of 5 stars)

Starbucks App Store ReviewsStarbucks Empty Rewards Screen  Starbucks Card

The Seattle coffee giant launched their mobile payment apps in January 2011.  Conceptualized as a mobile version of their Starbucks card, the apps currently see 3 million transactions a week and have over 10 million active users.  By the end of 2013, they expect 10% of total transaction volume to run on mobile.  Starbucks has more customers paying with their smartphones than any other brand in the country.  Starbucks built in Apple Passbook integration in late 2012 to allow iPhone users even easier access to Starbucks in-store.

Highlighted Features:
1. Bar code mobile payment (funds transferred through loading and re-loading a gift card)
2. Information on all coffee roasts
3.  Store locator
4. Rewards tab (with free beverage on your birthday after one purchase)
5. Ability to gift credit to others
6. Interactive Menu

3.  Dunkin Donuts (464 ratings, 3.5 out of 5 stars)

IMG_3024 (2)Dunkin ScreenDunkin Offers

Dunkin Donuts followed Starbucks by releasing their own mobile payment application in August 2012.  The app features a similar gift card funding feature to enable payment along with Apple Passbook integration and the ability to gift drinks to friends.  Touted as “the app that keeps you running,” the Dunkin app has seen many early adopters start using it for their coffee everyday.

Highlighted Features:
1. Bar code mobile payment (funds transferred through loading and re-loading a gift card)
2. Offer listings and redemption
3.  Store locator
4. Ability to gift credit to others
5. Interactive Menu and nutritional information

4.  Pinkberry (128 ratings, 2.5 out of 5 stars)

Pinkberry App RatingsPinkberry App Account Balance  Pinkberry Store Locator

Pinkberry released their Sweet Rewards App in October 2012, allowing customers to get their frozen treats faster and receive accumulating rewards int he process.  They feature a simple “purchase 10, earn 1” loyalty construct that works well for them considering their limited menu and similar purchase prices.  To encourage their customers to download the app, Pinkberry is giving away a free froyo with toppings when customers use the app to pay for the first time.

Highlighted Features:
1. Bar code mobile payment (funds transferred through loading and re-loading a gift card)
2.  Automatically accruing, custom loyalty program (Buy 10, get 1 free)
3.  GPS-enabled store locator
4. Sliding flavor-finder
5. eGifting option to send friends gift cards
6. Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare sharing feature

5.  Freshii (Not Yet Rated)

 Freshii App Ratings Freshii Main Screen Freshii Pay

Freshii released their mobile payment app to the iTunes App Store on August 3, 2012 and have been making various iterations since.  They haven’t yet done a major marketing push with the app, and the app hasn’t received any ratings.  The app is full-featured, and has a wide array of special features like: veggie collected, rankings, a locator for charging stations, QR code scanning, and more.  Their challenge now is to roll out a marketing program to get their customers excited and motivated to use the app.

Highlighted Features:
1. QR code mobile payment (funds transferred through loading and re-loading an account)
2. Features with specials of the week and workout tips
3.  Store locator
4. Rewards tab (with free beverage on your birthday after one purchase)
5. QR code scanner /charge stations listing / rankings for “veggies collected”

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Top 5 Restaurant Mobile Payment Apps

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