Open Banking
Open Banking
January 30, 2021
8 Min

Digital Payment Processing: Performance and Potential for Restaurants and Grocery Chains


Digital payment processing has helped QSRs and grocery chains adapt to the pandemic and realize other benefits: more efficiency, improved customer experience, increased revenue, and more. Each approach to digital payment processing has its pros and cons. Merchants that diversify their options by offering Open Banking Payments can avoid major pitfalls and maximize the benefits for themselves and their customers.

Quick service restaurants and grocery chains can approach digital payment processing several different ways:

  • Developing their own digital ordering system,
  • Collaborating with a third-party system, and
  • Using a first party payment provider.

Both pre- and post-pandemic, Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) and grocery chains have applied these strategies to cater to customer needs and grow their revenue. Here’s an overview of current adoption and performance of digital payment solutions for QSRs and grocery chains, plus new opportunities in online payments.

Quick Service Restaurants

Quick Service Restaurants have been investing in digital payment processing solutions for years now, mainly as a way to streamline ordering and improve customer experience. Then the pandemic began, and retail sales at food and drink places took a major hit.

Those that have prioritized digital payment solutions both before and during the pandemic have been reaping the most benefits. Starbucks was one of the first businesses to develop their own digital ordering system as far back as 2014, in the form of a mobile wallet. They saw significant success with it well before COVID-19.

By Q4 2020, Starbucks said nearly a quarter of all their US retail orders are placed from a phone.

McDonald’s also has its own mobile ordering system in place, however they do have a partnership with Uber Eats for delivery services. QSRs aren’t just facilitating delivery and contactless payment for takeouts, but also for dine-in customers. UberEats has a pay-at-table solution for this purpose. Other businesses such as Burger King and Shake Shack also encourage app-based ordering for customers in their stores.

Digital ordering offers numerous benefits for QSRs, which is why adoption was already on the rise before COVID-19. According to 2019’s Restaurant Readiness Index, 65% of large QSRs and 31% of small QSRs offered mobile order-ahead as of mid-2019. Pandemic aside, mobile-order-ahead solutions are just a smart business choice, improving profits and restaurant efficiency. According to ChowNow, online ordering can also grow ticket size by up to 20% for restaurants.

Even beyond Covid-19, ease-of-use and habit will likely drive consumers to continue using contactless payments when visiting QSRs. While widespread in-restaurant digitization was an inevitable development, the pandemic significantly sped up adoption by both merchants and customers.

Grocery Stores

Grocery stores are also seeing similar success with digital payments. Consumer demand for contactless payments for grocery store purchases increased significantly after the pandemic began. According to’s Omnichannel Grocery Report, 23 percent of US consumers started ordering more groceries online for home delivery since the beginning of the pandemic.

Consumers today use a variety of channels to buy groceries, including purchasing and paying in store, ordering online with home delivery, ordering online with in-store pickup, etc.

And while in-store shopping remains the most popular way for people to buy groceries, they also want contactless payments. In fact, the same report revealed that more than 35% of consumers would change grocery stores for one that offers contactless payment in-store. There are of course safety motivations behind this, but also ease-of-use and efficiency are driving factors.

While grocery store chains have been investing in digital payment processing solutions for years, those that doubled down on these efforts during the pandemic are reaping the benefits. A great example is Albertsons, which grew their in-store sales by 12.3% in the final quarter of 2020, thanks to an influx of digital sales (up 225%).

They’ve invested a lot in digital payment solutions recently. In October they introduced Albertsons Pay, a zero-touch checkout experience. This comes from the just for U loyalty app, which is also used by Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Randalls, United Supermarkets and other grocers.

Albertsons has also invested in initiatives to streamline contactless payments, such as expanding their Drive Up & Go offering to nearly 1,400 stores, and piloting an automated grocery pickup kiosk solution in January 2021.

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