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Wendy’s Co. Forging Ahead with Mobile Pay

April 4, 2014 | Source: Columbus Business First

Wendy’s Co. is making it easier for customers to pay for their burger and Frosty, which it hopes can boost sales in the process.

The Dublin-based fast-food purveyor is one of several chains rolling out mobile payment plans. An estimated 85 percent of Wendy’s restaurants in the U.S. now can handle payments through the company’s My Wendy’s smartphone app. It plans to have the capability in all of its 5,800 U.S. and Canada eateries this year.

Will it be embraced by consumers? Dining habits and the mobile payment industry will have something to say about that.

The program is simple: Customers load money onto the app. At the counter, they give the cashier a six-digit code and the meal is deducted from their balance.

“That’s a great opportunity to bring people back for return visits,” said Stephen Burke, vice president of the mobile practice at Resource LLC, a Columbus-based digital marketing agency. “This really comes down to loyalty, not just payments.”

Resource developed the My Wendy’s app in 2012 and tested it in Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas, though it doesn’t handle the current version for Wendy’s.

Burke said customers are increasingly more confident to use smartphones as digital wallets. Much credit for the popularity goes to Starbucks Corp., which has accepted mobile payments since 2011 and handled 14 percent of its U.S. transactions that way last year.

“They made it safe,” Burke said. “They proved that if you’re a loyal, repeat customer, there are rewards to be gained.”

Other quick-service dining chains are in the game, too. Burger King Worldwide Inc. and Panera Bread Co. are taking their mobile capabilities nationwide this year, and Subway is testing a program in 2,000 stores.

Yet going to mobile payments isn’t necessarily a smooth road for merchants, Burke said. Retailers wonder whether payment apps and capabilities appeal to occasional users or only the most frequent diners? And there is broad competition among mobile service providers working with different – and rival – payment systems. Japan has seen mobile payments become popular, but that growth was helped in part because service providers there adopted a universal payment system.