Enabling Technologies

Food Chains going for their Own Wallets seeing Starbucks' success, The Taco Bell Wallet

Retailers can smell a winner. They see Starbucks doing more than a billion dollar in sales with their wallet. And its just getting started on functionality. Technology available today makes it possible to improve consumer experience to new heights.

Mobile Ordering - The New “Drive Thru”

Taco Bell has been secretly working on an internal project that has been known internally as “Live Más”. I have been personally aware of this project from the Irvine, California company and can now speak to it a bit now that it is public.

Taco Bell had talks with all of the legacy and startup companies in payments and mobile wallets but choose to build internally. They are taking the lead from Starbucks and have seen these systems as important to the business as the products the companies serve. This has become so crucial that late last month Starbucks alined top executives from Howard Schultz, CEO down around payments and wallets, payments are now a “C-Level” job requirement at many companies (I know this personally). It is clear we have a trend that will play put in 1000s of companies.

For Quick Service Food, mobile ordering is the 2014 version of the 1950s Drive Thru ordering line. It is not surprising to see food service companies taking this aspect of their business very seriously.  It is frustrating to me in some ways to see how many payment startups ignored direct advice to create opportunities for companies like Taco Bell to build on existing startup products. Needless to say this myopic vision has forced all A level Quick Service Food companies to develop in house solutions:

“We opted to develop our own system specific to the brand instead of using one of a growing number of off-the-shelf solutions, which could’ve been a quicker way to bring mobile ordering to fruition. Living Más is all about doing things differently. One brand will be extraordinary, while everyone else is ordinary. We asked, How do we become extraordinary?”-Jeff Jenkins, mobile lead for Taco Bell.

Example of the Taco Bell Mobile Wallet app.

Amazing fundamental changes are happening through technology-driven disruptions in the Payments sector.

Drive Thru And Say “Mobile Order For Brian”

This shift we will see in mobile ordering will be almost turtle slow at first. Existing infrastructure will be used to accommodate the new method. The advantage to Taco Bell and the Taco Bell patron will be huge at some point. Of course there will be loyalty built in to the system and this will drive a certain number of use cases. There will also be discounts and couponing.

The Taco Bell wallet app offers a message that varies, depending on the time of day, e.g.: Hey hungry human, ready to get your lunch on?” message around midday, for example, or another tailored to dinner or late-night snacks. The app opens to the menu and locates the closest Taco Bell. Patrons customize menu selections, and “smart upwell” opportunities suggest options like a drink or dessert and save their favorite orders. Of course Taco Bell gift cards or payment cards are held on file and can be used to pay.

One huge feature that is not fully understood by people outside of this industry is the challenge of customizations. This can really impact the entire business from the front of the house to the back of the house. The Taco Bell app will allow for endless customized menu options with the lowest impact to the business from a time and accuracy perspective.

GPS Based Order Production is coming

The mobile order is directly piped into the POS system and appears on the kitchen display system specifically as a mobile order. The food is prepared hot when the guest arrives reaches a predetermined distance using GPS location on the smartphone. It is really a brilliant system.

The patron can do an in-store pick up or use the drive thru — but they don’t have to make that decision until they arrive at the restaurant. If the drive thru line is long, for example, they can tap “in-store” pickup and go inside. Jenkins said a separate pick up window for mobile orders will be available to allow those guests to avoid the line. If using the drive thru, guests simply stop at the call box and announce their arrival by name — “Mobile order for NAME” — cueing the kitchen to prepare the meal and have it ready at the pick up window.

"Hmm What Do I Want” While Standing At The Register

The largest challenge at any Quick Service Restaurant is speed at peak times. About 45% of people in these venues, wait till the moment they are ordering to decide what they want. This adds minutes to the line. This adds hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost productivity per year per location. Yes, and it makes you mad, really mad don’t hide it, I know it.

The Customized Mobile Wallet Trend

Thus mobile ordering can have a huge impact on this sector. And this is why I have witnessed so many companies reject the offerings from startups and legacy companies, there is no platform that allows the merchant to build from scratch the vision they have. There are more than 70 Mobile wallet offerings just in the US but with the success Starbucks has witnessed it appears customized mobile wallet might be preferred by large retailers.

Now it may appear that this is all going to create walled gardens and silos around each food business, in some ways this is correct. However opportunities are abound as there are dozens of things that will be needed here.

I see ways for Apple and iBeacons to help solve some of these real problems and thus I see multi-billion dollar startup industries built around these technologies.

Your Smartphone Vibrates And Says: “I know you want a Taco, there is one around the corner”

No matter how this all plays out, get ready for every single one of your favorite Quick Service Restaurants to start to look more like tech companies and startups as they take very serious the way these systems will become a material part of their businesses.

Along the way you and I may just have to lean in the right direction, at the right time of day, and our smartphone may already know we have a need for a few tacos.

Brian Roemmele

Brian Roemmele, is a mobile payments expert and an avid blogger at Quora. His profile can be found at http://www.quora.com/Brian-Roemmele. Brian is an Apple enthusiast and has deep interests in writing about new technology in payments.

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