Digital payments are having an impact on the restaurant world, affecting everybody from all walks of life. The rise of new technology means that more and more restaurants are switching to ‘Cashless’. But what does this mean for the future of our coins and notes?

Digital Payments: The History

Chip & Pin

Photograph of someone swiping credit/debit card.

Image from (No attribution required)

I don’t know about you, but I certainly couldn’t imagine a world without the option of paying by card. ‘Chip & Pin’, which is becoming an old method of payment, was only launched 16 years ago in 2002. Keeping this in mind, it is clear to see how rapidly digital payments have changed.


Since then, contactless payment has taken the world by storm. 2007 was the year when the first ever contactless payment occurred. By 2011, mobile phone payments were starting to be introduced. This began with Barclaycard’s ‘QuickTap’ and lead to the introduction of ApplePay in 2014. ‘AndroidPay’, GooglePay’ and ‘SamsungPay’ all followed quite quickly.

In April 2017, £3,913.3m was spent in the UK using contactless payment. This is a rise of 147.6% from the previous year. Contactless payments have now overtaken the original ‘Chip & Pin’. The number of contactless card payments shifted to 51% in June 2018, marking the moment that contactless became the preferred method of payment.


Ever sat waiting for your waitress to bring the bill when all you want to do is pay, get up and continue with your day? In-app payments makes this possible. As I have previously mentioned, more restaurants are using apps and Starbucks are the ones who are seemingly the best at it (for now…).

Sit down restaurants are now introducing in-app payments meaning that waiting for that paper bill will be a problem of the past. There are 2 options to do this. Restaurants such as ‘Wagamama’s’ have recently introduced their own app for quick and easy payment. However, some restaurants use generic apps such as Tappr and MyCheck.

Digital Payments in Restaurants

Outside of EAT restaurant in London

KF at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So how does this apply to the digital developments in restaurants? In 2008, EAT became the first restaurant to accept contactless payment. This sparked a chain reaction and other food chains soon realised the benefit of going contactless. A wide variety of different restaurants now use contactless payments. From fast food to fast casual to full service, it is now becoming a preferred payment method.

Cashless Fast Food

Photograph of burgers, drink and fries from Shake Shack

m01229 from USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In terms of fast food, McDonald’s are (once again) ahead of the game. A combination of the automated kiosks, mentioned in my previous blog, and contactless payment options mean that the fast-food chain is among others who are looking at going cashless.

In 2017, ‘Shake Shack’ began to trial completely cashless establishments by opening its first cash-free kiosk location in New York. However, this received a large amount of backlash from customers and by 2018, the cashless plans had been cancelled. The fast-food chain is now using a ‘hybrid’ of kiosks and cashiers.

Table-Top Payments

Outside of Applebee's restaurant with logo

Tobias Kleinlercher / Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Fast-casual restaurants are beginning to introduce the use of tabletop kiosks in order to make paying quicker. This integration of technology into the dining experience is something that is becoming more expected by diners. Alongside allowing customers to order and customise their order, these tabletop tablets also provide the ability to easily split and pay for the bill.

Ziosk is one company which is providing this digital experience. This is mainly available in the US at the moment, particularly in restaurants such as ‘Applebee’s’ and ‘Olive Garden’. Currently in ‘Applebee’s’, more than 50% of guests who use the tabletop service will use it for payment.

Benefits vs Problems

Overall, the benefits of using digital payments outweigh the problems. Any advance in technology will always have some controversies but there are many positives to using new and upcoming payments methods.


  • Saves time for customers and waitresses
  • More accurate
  • Easier to keep track of sales
  • Eliminates the risk of robbery and reduces crime
  • Aligns with consumer behaviour (as I said before, card payment is now the preferred method)
  • Gives the ability to integrate rewards such as through the Starbucks app
  • More sanitary


thank you for reading!
what do you think about digital payments? will they save the restaurant industry or destroy it? let me know in the comments or on twitter. don’t forget to click the follow button and check back next week for a new blog post!