What will it take for mobile technology to work for QSRs?

We've already seen local and regional restaurants move toward a more mobile infrastructure with tablet-based point-of-sale systems. Other restaurants are also using diners' phones as a primary method of contact via email, apps and loyalty program offers. It was only a matter of time until mobile tech made its way into quick-service restaurants.

Starbucks was one of the first quick-service restaurants to offer mobile payments to its customers. Coffee lovers can pay using the company's smartphone app by placing their phone in front of a scanner attached to the POS system. Mobile payments, along with new mobile innovations are likely going to take root in the restaurant industry in 2015. Quick-service companies will have to be on board, or else they'll lose out on critical market share.

"Lots of operators, especially smaller ones, have no idea how rapidly the tech world has already changed," says Michael Whiteman, president of consulting firm Baum + Whiteman, in an email to industry outlet QSR Magazine. "They should start investigating now so they're not irrevocably behind the curve."

What will it take for mobile adoption?

Consumers are open to making alternative payments, but it's up to smaller restaurants to give diners that option. QSR Magazine, which called mobile technology its No. 1 restaurant industry trend of 2015, is already creeping its way into fast-food restaurants' operations. For instance, Taco Bell's new mobile app lets consumers customize their orders and pay from their phone ahead of time. Patrons can even save their favorite menu items for a streamlined checkout process. 

While national food chains have the infrastructure to develop and roll out applications on a grand scale, smaller restaurants will have to get creative in the ways that they implement mobile infrastructure into their operation. The beauty of mobile point of sale, for instance, is that the technology is an inexpensive yet powerful tool that can benefit restaurants right away. Its open-ended software integrates seamlessly with existing systems and management suites and can also reduce waiting time at the table, which is a win-win for restaurant owners.

The need for a mobile-centric infrastructure comes at a particularly good time for restaurant owners. Industry sales, as pegged by the National Restaurant Association, are forecasted to reach more than $709 billion by the end of the year, a more than 20 percent increase year over year. This growth, which has been consistently positive over the last five decades, comes at a time when not only mobile technology is maturing at an unprecedented rate, but mobile payments as well. 

Citing xAd and Telemetrics research, eMarketer reported that 63 percent of patrons are making a purchase at a fast-service food restaurant within an hour after searching for their nearest location on a smartphone or tablet device. Thanks in part to the help of the latest smartphone maps, apps, mobile coupons and ordering platforms, the quick-service restaurant has catapulted itself onto the cutting-edge of the 21st century restaurant industry.