5 ways digital payments changed our relationship with food

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It was only a matter of time before technological innovations spread to the thing we love doing most – eating.

The rise of the internet has brought restaurants, cuisines, and foods that we have never heard of or tried, and placed it directly within the reach of our fingertips. This level of availability and popularity was only made possible by one major FinTech innovation – digital payments.

Here are five ways they changed how we eat.


1. The food comes to you

The idea of food delivery is by itself not a novel concept. People delivered food from the moment someone was too lethargic to pick up a pizza. The big difference now is how we pay. By going digital, companies are able to not only speed up their whole operations, they also become more efficient as it’s much easier to extrapolate data from digital payments.

There is a reason the delivery sector is only exploding now, the idea was always there, the efficiency and profitability was only made possible for many companies by the introduction of digital payments.

Many companies actively sneer at cash payments. For example, Deliveroo, the UK-based company that delivers food from high-end restaurants and raised $70m this summer, says on its homepage:

“People still use cash? Really, son? This is the new millennium, we don’t party like it’s 1999.”

It goes on to say that digital payments allow them to provide a better experience. And it makes sense, it’s much easier to have your card details stored online so you can order and pay in one click, rather than fumbling for that last £1 at the back of the sofa.


2. The bill splits itself

Perhaps the single greatest thing brought about by digital payments. Before they became commonplace, splitting the bill between a group of people was always an issue. Someone always refused to pay more than they calculated, and everyone always forgot to include the service charge. Such conflicts are now gradually being phased out by the advent of bill splitting apps.  Companies such as Cake or Velocity allow users to keep track of what they have ordered in real-time and at the end of the meal the app calculates exactly how much each person owes.

Velocity recently acquired US restaurant mobile payments brand Cover, one of the most popular mobile dining applications in the Unites States. It also raised $4m this week, adding up to a total $16.4m raised.

Efficiency and convenience are again at the heart of the success. Allowing customers to pay from their phones saves time by preventing them from trying to work out who works what, and also allows waiters to keep serving people rather than loitering and waiting for everyone to get their cards out.

In a US study carried out in this summer, over half of respondents (54 per cent) said they used a mobile phone to pay at a restaurant, whilst the 46 per cent who haven’t, said they would be open to the idea of doing so.


3. Your phone is your menu and shopping basket

But digital payments haven’t only changed restaurants. Coffee chains such as Starbucks are also getting on the act. They recently rolled out their Mobile Order & Pay service across the US.

Through mobile app customers select their food and beverages and pay for them in advance of their visit to a Starbucks branch. After tapping ‘Order’, the user selects the store they want to pick up the beverages from. The app also tells users how long they have to wait before everything is ready.

Other chains such as Subway are also making the most this technology. Digital payments have allowed companies and restaurants to process payments for orders well in advance of delivery, something that wasn’t anywhere near possible at this speed even 10 years ago.


4. You don’t even have to pay in currency

Digital payments have made it easier to store and spend rewards and companies are quickly realising that the calibre of the rewards they offer can make a massive difference in the uptake of their service. The chains like Subway and Starbucks mentioned above are heavily pushing their reward schemes.

Greggs recently took advantage of contactless payments by launching its own rewards app that allows customers to receive real-time offers and spend rewards on their app or in-store.

In the US, Android Pay has been shoring up support by working with restaurant chains such as Jamba Juice and loyalty scheme companies to introduce mobile wallets that deal in promotions and rewards. These collaborations suggest the payment industry is steadily shifting its focus onto rewards as the next main attraction for consumers.


5. The whole experience in one

The rise of digital payments has not only facilitated much easier ways of food delivery, bill paying or ordering – it allows companies to provide the complete experience in one go. Companies like OpenTable started out as restaurant-booking websites, but having established a clear market penetration of restaurants, has now branched out to m-payments. Customers can book and pay for a restaurant via OpenTable’s app on their phone or – more significantly – on a tablet provided by the restaurant.

This is a very significant step towards a seamless restaurant experience. It shows digital payments are pushing the restaurant experience to a point where customers can reserve a table, order and pay for the bill in one app, meaning it is an almost frictionless experience. This is reflected in the early data collected by OpenTable.

The company reportedly told TechCrunch that initial trials have seen faster turnaround times for restaurants and “encouraging trends in tip and cheque size.”

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