KFC is making a major change to fix one of the biggest problems in the fast-food industry
On Wednesday, the chain officially announced it was rolling out mobile payment, with system-wide adoption expected to be completed by the end of the summer. With the new payment system, customers can pay with Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay both in stores and at drive-thrus.
The change has two purposes. First, it is part of a wide update to the chain's mobile payment infrastructure to increase security. Second, it is expected to improve speed of service, especially as more locations switch to the slightly more time-consuming EMV chip card payment.
The promise of speedier service is key in the fast-food industry, with chains across the industry making changes from simplifying menus to adopting new technology to ensure that customers can get their food as quickly as possible. When fast food slows down - as it did across the industry in recent years, only recovering slightly in 2015, according to QSR magazine data - it means fewer sales and unhappy customers.
Adding the option of mobile pay seems like a small time-saving move, but it goes hand-in-hand with wider technology intended, in part, to help speed up service.
FRCH Design Worldwide
FRCH Design Worldwide
"Some people would jump to kiosks for labor reduction," Chris Caldwell, KFC's chief information officer, told Business Insider. "I think we can make our restaurant managers more efficient using technology."
KFC has lagged behind competitor Chick-fil-A, in part because of the rival chicken chain's impressive customer service. With a new employee-centric tech initiative, KFC is trying to catch up, testing new tech related to the less-than-flashy issues like inventory and scheduling shifts to 20 to 30 locations in the coming months.
Unfortunately for KFC, it looks like Chick-fil-A has some new tech of its own to speed up service. The chicken chain is now rolling out a new app that will allow customers to avoid waiting in line at the register, as they can pay in advance and then pick it up at a counter designated for digital orders.
KFC has said it's not ready to launch an app of it's own, saying that often, such tech focuses are due to chains jumping on the bandwagon, not fixing actual needs. However, when it comes to fast-food, time is of the essence - and, increasingly, tech is the new solution for picking up speed.