Wendy’s rolls out mobile payment in U.S. restaurants

NEW YORK (AP) — Wendy’s is rolling out a program that
lets customers pay using their smartphones, following a similar plans
unveiled by Burger King this week.
The Wendy’s Co., based in
Dublin, Ohio, has been testing the mobile payment option over the past
year and said the majority of its roughly 5,800 U.S. locations are now
ready to accept the payments.
The move reflects a push by
fast-food chains to court younger customers by tapping into the
attachment they have to their phones.
"If they want to come in and
give us business, we want to allow them to pay the way they want to
pay," Craig Bahner, chief marketing officer for Wendy’s, said in a phone
interview.
Burger King Worldwide Inc. also said this week it would introduce a mobile payment program at its U.S.
restaurants in April.
McDonald’s
Corp., meanwhile, has acknowledged the importance of mobile payments
but is still in a testing phase after hiring its first chief digital
officer this past October.
The company, based in Oak Brook, Ill.,
is known in the industry for its meticulous planning of any changes. But
at a recent investor conference, Chief Financial Officer Pete Bensen
noted it would have to do things that were "a little bit unnatural for
McDonald’s" to stay on top of digital trends.
"We’re going to have
to put some things out there that we know are not 100 percent perfect.
But if you wait in this space until everything is 100 percent figured
out, then you’re going to miss the whole opportunity," he said.
McDonald’s
isn’t alone in still figuring out exactly how it wants to approach
mobile payments and loyalty programs. Chipotle is still experimenting
with the options as well.
In the meantime, Starbucks Corp. is
pushing to get more customers to sign up for its app and loyalty program
and says 14 percent of all purchases now come from mobile payments.
Executives at the coffee chain say customers who sign up for the app
tend to visit more often.
"You look at the numbers that Starbucks
puts out, and it’s pretty amazing," said Brandon Rhoten, vice president
of digital at Wendy’s.
It’s not clear whether the impact Starbucks
sees in mobile would translate to fast-food chains, since coffee is
more of a daily fix. But Rhoten said Wendy’s saw promising trends in
tests, including increased visits.
To pay with the Wendy’s app,
customers tap the app to pull up a six-digit number they tell the
cashier, rather than holding up their device to a scanner. Burger King
also said its app will give customers a four-digit number they tell
cashiers to make a payment.
"That’s a real benefit when you think about cars going through pickup windows," Bahner said.

The
rollout comes as Wendy’s works to revamp its image to be more in line
with chains like Panera Bread, which charge a little more than
traditional fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King. That push
has included remodeling of its restaurants to have a more inviting feel,
as well as the addition of menu items such as the Pretzel Bacon Burger
that command higher prices.
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