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Consumer Trends

2012 trend book: Technology

Mobile payments get a move on

Mobile payments are hot overseas, but the trend will expand in the U.S. restaurant industry in 2012. Google is putting its influence behind Google Wallet, a contactless payment system that uses Near Field Communication (NFC). Users with Google Wallet phones can pay just by waving the phone in front of a payment terminal. Coupons and reward points can also be tied in.

Subway has already ordered up Google Wallet and MasterCard PayPass-compatible contactless payment systems for 7,000 locations. “The best types of restaurants to accept mobile and contactless payments are quick- service restaurants and establishments where you pay at the register,” says Dom Morea, senior vice president and division manager, advanced solutions and innovation at merchant processing services company First Data.

Global mobile payment transactions will reach $945 billion in 2015, up from $31.5 billion for 2010, according to IE Market Research. “Every indication is that contactless payments are the wave of the future,” says Morea. “The revolution will likely be small spurts of users jumping on board rather than a mad rush. But, it is in restaurant operators’ best interest to be proactive by investing in solutions that work today, in order to be prepared for the inevitable industry changes.”

Restaurants run on iPhones

Desktops computers are no longer required for running a restaurant. Restaurant owners are increasingly moving to mobile devices like iPhones, iPads and Android tablets to make bookings, find wine pairings, communicate with employees and access databases. This business trend mirrors the growth of smartphones and tablets in the consumer market. Apple has already sold over 4 million of the new iPhone 4S smartphones.

Patrick Albrecht, owner of Great Food Group, runs three restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia. He outfitted all 15 of his managers with iPhones and apps like Bento for databases, WineSnob and iCal for calendars. “The iPhone lets us carry around amounts of information that used to take up entire offices. We also control all the lights, TVs, music, surveillance and, recently, door locks with the phone. It is our mission control,” says Albrecht.

The mobility of the iPhone helps Albrecht keep up with all of his locations. He sees more and more restaurants owners adopting mobile devices for getting serious work done. “Imagine 10 years from now, it will probably be flipping our hamburgers.”

POS takes its place at the table 

Tableside POS systems are getting more sophisticated as they move away from the early clunky handheld devices and onto sleeker machines like tablets that also have a lot more muscle and a much higher cool factor. A 2011 study by IHL Group estimates that 2.7 million tablets a year will be shipped by 2015 for use in the North American retail and hospitality industry. IHL expects this to impact traditional POS systems, reducing shipments by as much as 20 percent in some segments of the market by the same year. The move to tableside POS will happen naturally as hip restaurant start-ups embrace the technology and existing restaurants make the switch during their regular POS upgrade cycles.

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