New York City Bill Proposes Eliminating Cashless Stores and Restaurants

New York City Bill Proposes Eliminating Cashless Stores and Restaurants

“Supporters of a new bill want to make sure New Yorkers are able to keep paying cash at their local stores.

The New York City Council held a hearing last week on the bill that proposes to ban stores and restaurants from refusing cash. The legislation is in response to a push for cashlessness across the city and the nation. Backers of the bill argue that by refusing cash, these establishments discriminate against the poor, victims of domestic violence, homeless people and undocumented immigrants—all of whom are more likely to be unbanked.

“Given the sheer prevalence of unbanked people, I worry deeply about the cashless economy,” said New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres, who introduced the bill. “Not everyone has access to debit or credit, but everyone has access to cash.”

See more here.

Digital Ordering to Triple by 2020

Restaurant mobile app

Restaurant digital orders have grown an average of 23 percent, per year since 2013, and will triple by the end of 2020, according to a report from NPD Group.

The report, called Delivering Digital Convenience, found that 70 percent of a restaurant’s digital orders come through its mobile app or its website, with the remaining orders coming through third-party apps or websites. Customers used the restaurant’s own app most of the time because of rewards points or savings, and other brands appeal to customers because they want to create a custom order or take friction out of the ordering process.

Third-party apps like DoorDash, UberEats or Grubhub/Seamless accounted for 40 percent share of the 20 most used apps, and are used by consumers who want to look up various food items and check prices.

“Digital orders will remain an outsized source of growth for the restaurant industry over the next few years, and operators who desire to grow need to embrace a digital strategy,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry adviser and author of Eating Patterns in America, said in the announcement. “There are clear leaders in the digital ordering space, and third-party providers who have achieved critical mass the fastest.”

See more here.

Waitlisting App Nowait Introduces Bill Pay Feature

The App Nowait, which allows guests to add their name to digital waitlists at restaurants that do not take traditional reservations, is now leveraging those partnerships to introduce a mobile payment option as well. Nowait has been steadily growing for the past few years to incorporate a suite of software for restaurants and guests, including tools to manage seating and server rotation as well as reservations and waitlists. They already have  close to 4,000 restaurants on the platform, running the gamut from Chili’s to the Clinton St. Baking Company here in New York. Nowait has been downloaded by diners over 3 million times.

With the new mobile payment option (currently being tested in the company’s hometown of Pittsburg), guests can quickly pay their check at the end of the meal without flagging down a server. The app works with three of the largest POS systems (Micros, NCR, POSitouch), which covers around 85% of their targeted fast-casual market. Nowait claims that there are benefits all around – restaurants are seeing faster turnaround, and servers have seen higher tips. The latter may be due to the apps customizable suggested tip amount, which is now standard in POS systems like Square.

As more aspects of the dining experience go digital (and mobile), this market will get more crowded. Nowait has partnerships on it’s side, but they’ll have to make the experience seamless as well.

To read more, click here.

Starbucks’ 2014 Holiday Initiatives

The Starbucks Leadership Experience conference was held this past weekend in Seattle where over 2,000 district managers shared customer initiatives to elevate the Starbucks holiday experience. Having noticed that during the 2013 holidays many brick-and-mortar retailers experienced a decline in foot traffic compared to a growth in online shopping, Starbucks experts began focusing on redefining the retail experience with digital innovations.

Howard Schultz, president and CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company states, “Customers researched, compared prices, and then bought the brands and items they wanted online, frequently utilizing a mobile device to do so. Since that time, we have been focused on radically redefining the Starbucks retail experience for our partners, customers and stores. As a result of the work we’ve done, Starbucks is poised for a great holiday—our innovation pipeline is strong and we have a number of initiatives ready to launch during the holiday and into calendar 2015 and beyond.”

Aside from the holiday changes which take place every season, such as the red cups and seasonal flavors, Starbucks will be introducing new customer incentives such as ‘Starbucks for Life” which lucky customers will be able to win by paying with their smartphone or by using their Starbucks card. Starbucks will also be launching Mobile Order and Pay in stores within the Portland area before the end of the year which will allow customers to place orders in advance for pick up in store. The nationwide launch for Mobile Order and Pay is planned for 2015 which will hugely increase the company’s presence in the mobile commerce scene.

Other holiday initiatives include the 30th anniversary of Starbucks Christmas Blend and the first new holiday beverage crafted in the past five years, the Chestnut Praline Latte. The loyalty program will have added value and benefits (including access to special events and sneak previews of new products) for customers using their mobile devices. The company will also be taking initiatives to expand the Starbucks Reserve coffee line by opening an interactive Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room which will dedicate itself to roasting, coffee education and selling the small-lot Starbucks Reserve coffees.

To read more about Starbucks’ holiday initiatives for this season, click here


Webinar Event: Branded Restaurant Apps

Restaurants can really benefit from having a branded smartphone app for their marketing campaigns. It is also important to know that many customers now expect a mobile app and when it is not available for them to use for payment, loyalty programs, promotions or online ordering, it could cause some frustration.  The most important thing to a customer is that all systems are efficient and run seamlessly, and this webinar will help to achieve these goals. A few things that will be addressed are:

  • How to introduce an app and encourage adoption
  • How to engage the customer with the mobile app and impact customer behaviors
  • Promoting effectively via the mobile app
  • The appropriate times to use traditional marketing tactics and when to use mobile promotions in lieu
  • Integrating messages and promotions so customers have a consistent experience
  • Optimizing mobile promotions by segmenting users (new, lapsed, best customers)
  • Transferring contact information and behavioral data between existing marketing systems and mobile/online platforms
  • How much control should your franchisees have for setting up mobile marketing?

The webinar is hosted by an enterprise level SaaS platform for ordering, payment, geo and trigger marketing, and a leading technology integrator to create ‘super apps’ that include in-store and app loyalty, stored value cards and mobile wallet technology called The panel includes founder and CEO of Fishbowl, Scott Shaw, and CEO and President of, Vijay R. Bangaru amongst other important figures in the digital marketing realm. To read more about the panel and to watch the webinar, click here


New App Means New Competition for Fast Casual

In an effort to add more emphasis on speed and hospitality, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse launched an app last Tuesday that allows diners to place their orders before arriving at the restaurant. BJ’s Chief Executive Gregory Trojan believes that being hospitable is the most important task for a waiter. The casual-dining restaurant chain’s goal in launching the app is to shift the wait staff’s duties to enable them to focus on being more conscientious of the customer.

The customer is placed on the wait list once they have ordered via the app, eliminating the need to wait at the host stand upon arriving at the restaurant. The kitchen fires the meal once the customer is seated to ensure the food is hot when it arrives at the table. The app also offers a mobile payment option at the end of the meal eliminating the need to wait for the check.Trojan assures that the app will not mean less waiters but simply that the waiters will be removed from the ordering process.

The increase in speed and service will be an added draw to the customer which will enable BJ’s to better compete with fast casual establishments. Panera Bread and McDonald’s have also been experimenting with different ways to include the customer to streamline the ordering process.


To read more about the app launch and what it means for the future click here


Video Q&A With Cover, The Mobile Payment Application

Watch a video Q&A session with with Cover, the mobile payment application that is taking NYC by storm. The payment processing start-up offers a free app that stores diners’ credit card information and tip preference which are automatically charged at the end of the meal. Restaurant operators use its back of house app (also free) in addition to their POS system to process Cover user payments. Best part – processing fees are  a lower than what typical credit card companies charge. Watch the 10 minute video here.


Balancing Technology and Hospitality in the Modern Age— Is There a Happy Medium?

Restaurants are adapting to the ever-changing technology climate—is this a good thing? These days there is an app to facilitate almost any dining experience including making reservations, tracking wait times, placing orders, and processing payment. The adaptation to modern technology in the restaurant sphere has altered the dining experience for both guests and operators. Can human hospitality and technology cohabit in restaurants, or must one dominate the other?

From a guest standpoint, technology can provide a no-frills, however sterile, experience in which getting from point A to point Z requires few superfluous interactions in between. Are these interactions actually superfluous though? While it’s not far fetched to assume that one day all restaurants could be completely operated by iPads, do servers, hosts and managers possess an indispensable human quality that machines cannot replicate? Then the question becomes, “Is the hospitality experience created by the service team’s human interaction a requisite for guests, or are technological apps that can perform the same duties without the small talk sufficient?” From an operator perspective restaurant apps can ultimately lead to more profitability. Theoretically, guest traffic count would increase and fewer front of house staff would be required.

The app Cover allows guests to pay the bill without having to ask and wait for the check. Guests can select a tip percentage of their preference to be automatically calculated, and they can opt to divide the tab by the number of guests in their party. This is an example of an app that eliminates a tedious process that often leads to frustrating lag times; in this instance, hospitality is not of the utmost importance. However, when guests have control of their entire dining experience from appetizer to dessert at the tip of their fingers, literally, are the seemingly unnecessary steps of interacting with a server really that unnecessary? It may seem appealing to a single diner who is not in the mood for chit chat or to a group of friends who would rather focus on their conversation as opposed to the ordering process— but would the presence of a server actually provide an additional benefit instead of creating an unnecessary obstacle?

Servers are humans at their core, with life experience, people skills and opinions— all qualities that programs cannot acquire no matter how intelligent they are. Servers, hosts, managers and other front of house team members can guide guests in the right direction depending on guests’ moods, dietary preferences and any other concerns. Hypothetically, even if apps could somehow be designed to form humanlike judgments and opinions, will their efficiency and intelligence ever be a suitable replacement for the comfort of human interaction? Whether there’s a standard that restaurants should live up to in terms of balancing human hospitality with technology is ultimately up to the restaurateur; there may not be one right answer.

Chipotle Invests $10 Million in Mobile Payments

In an effort to maximize throughput and eliminate the time-consuming steps involved in cash and credit card transactions, Chipotle is investing a few hundred dollars per location in adding mobile payment technology to its ordering app. This isn’t about staying current with the latest technology trends for co-CEO Steve Ells, but rather a worthwhile investment to ameliorate guest convenience and foot traffic for the long-run. The updates to Chipotle’s current ordering app will process payments through a bar code scan or Bluetooth connection.

Cover App: An Easy Payment Solution for Restaurant Meals

The app Cover is revolutionizing the way customers pay for restaurant meals. “What Cover is focused on — removing payments from the table altogether — I really do think that is fundamentally transformational,” according to Denee Carrington, a mobile commerce senior analyst at Forrester Research. “The part of your dining experience that you want to care about or want to remember is not how you paid. The more that can disappear, the better.”

Paying for meals at restaurants can be vexing. The process of getting the server’s attention for the check, waiting for the check, figuring out the appropriate tip and splitting the bill in multiple ways depending on the party size, can be time-consuming and leaves room for errors. Cover allows diners to notify the server at the beginning of the meal that they’ll be paying with the app, and as soon as they’ve finished eating, they are free to leave. Cover handles the bill accordingly with a pre-determined tip percentage the app user has applied. The app also automatically splits the bill amongst all the diners. 

Cover is mutually beneficial for restaurant owners; the fees are lower than those of credit cards. Cover also offers following-day deposits in contrast to three to five business days for the average credit card. Circumventing the check process entirely turns tables faster as well.

Several casual restaurants in New York are already using Cover, including Parm, Empellon Cocina and Charlie Bird, to name a few. You can view the full restaurant list here.