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Article published in Issue Number: 070201

Selling in the driver's lane

By Rob Canterbury, VeriFone

The quick serve restaurant (QSR) industry adopted bankcard acceptance overnight. Well, not quite. But it sure seemed like it in the two years during which we went from limited market penetration to virtual market saturation.

However, that doesn't mean money can't be made selling card payment solutions in this market.

It's true that almost all QSR operations have now adopted payment technology, so green sales opportunities in the field are essentially limited to new store openings.

It's also true that the POS equipment at most current QSR locations is less than three years old, so replacement sales are relatively few and far between.

But the QSR industry is relentless in its push to continually improve customer throughput and desperate for the next wave in payment acceptance: increasing service speed in the drive-through lane.

According to a report last year in Self Service World, drive-through sales account for more than 60% of overall revenue at a typical McDonald's operation and more than 80% of lunch-time revenue.

The drive-through challenge

The QSR industry has tried many methods to increase drive-through efficiency. These include call-center networks where customers speak to service representatives hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away.

Obviously, they're willing to spend the cash to get a return on investment in such a mission-critical area.

According to the National Restaurant Association's "2007 Restaurant Industry Forecast," QSRs are projected to register sales of $150.1 billion in 2007, a gain of 5% over 2006. QSRs offer "increasingly busy Americans convenience and value, often while incorporating technology solutions that save diners time and money."

Additionally, the report states that QSR operators will be looking to enhance drive-through, takeout, delivery and catering options, as well as growth in gift cards.

This situation cries out for an effective payment solution in the drive-through lane. The compelling solution is a self-service payment system. Consumers are well-conditioned to ATM and pay-at-the-pump solutions.

They can more quickly execute a card-based transaction by themselves than by handing over their cards to an attendant (something many are increasingly reluctant to do).

Self-service card payment at the drive-through POS has an added advantage: the inherent security of handing over neither card nor cash to low-paid attendants who are potential lynchpins of any card skimming operation.

Such a system is win-win-win for consumers, QSR operators and attendants. Consumers feel safer and in control; operators cut down on cash pilfering and avoid card skimming; and attendants focus on delivering a quality product quickly, which is what they are rated on.

A winning solution

QSRs should be able to dramatically speed up throughput at this crucial point of service. However, unique factors need to be addressed. A payment device in the drive-through lane must be rugged and secure to resist vandalism and tampering.

It must be able to withstand the environmental rigors of outdoor use. This means not only enduring heat, cold, rain, snow and ice, but also the glare of sunlight.

In addition, it must be inherently consumer-facing and as easy to use as an ATM. And, it must integrate somehow with the QSR operator's existing payment setup.

VeriFone has worked with QSR chains for some time to determine the best solution for drive-through payment. Based on our success with the QSR industry and years of experience with customer-facing payment in the multilane retail environment, we focused on providing an enhanced PIN pad-type experience to consumers.

The majority of QSR payment systems are based on the Omni 3750, and most of the remainder are tied to electronic cash registers. So, it makes sense to treat an outdoor payment system as a peripheral to the interior payment system.

VeriFone's approach, for example, resulted in the QX720 system, which can be mounted at the payment window where it interfaces via a small junction box with electronic POS systems and existing payment terminals.

Most likely, few of you will want to learn how to install this type of system. Recognizing that, VeriFone's managed services group has begun developing a national network of installation experts whom you can call on.

However you approach it, drive-through payment is a wide-open opportunity. But, as we saw with the rapid adoption of card payment systems inside of QSR operations, this is going to be a fast-moving environment once the industry catches on to the possibilities.

How many times have you passed by your favorite QSR because there were too many cars in the drive-through line?

QSR operators are only too familiar with the number of potential customers who turn away each day because of slow-moving lanes.

You can provide the key to significantly boost their daily revenue and increase customer satisfaction: Help them implement card payment in the drive-through lane.

Rob Canterbury is Senor Director, QSR Business Development, with VeriFone. He can be reached at

Article published in issue number 070201

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