Ordering and Paying with Your Smartphone at the Drive-Through

If you’ve ever left your wallet at home or dropped that much-needed fistful of change between the seats just as you approached the drive-through window, you know the sinking feeling of not having the cash to pay for your order.

Mobile technology is helping solve this problem by allowing customers to pay with their smartphones. According to a recent survey by EMN8 and Harris Interactive, 30 percent of fast food consumers said they would be interested in using their mobile devices for purchases.

Mobile payment programs are already being tested at McDonald’s locations in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas. The fast food giant turned to the solution to make it easier for diners to grab Big Macs, McWraps and smoothies and to enhance the overall McDonald’s experience.

These solutions have made their way into other mainstream fast food chains as well. Chipotle Mexican Grill currently has a mobile ordering app where customers hungry for a burrito bowl can easily choose, customize and pay for a meal even before stepping into the store. Starbucks customers have enjoyed this convenient way of buying their favorite mocha blend since 2011. The coffee franchise says mobile payments have perked up to more than 10 percent of in-store purchases.

Jamba Juice is also embracing the technology for payments and is encouraging customers to do the same by giving away up to 1 million free smoothies to those who tap to pay using Softcard Mobile Wallet*. The giveaway will kick off at participating U.S. Jamba Juice locations later this year and will coincide with the nationwide launch of Softcard, a joint venture that began last year when Verizon Wireless and other carriers launched a pilot test program in Salt Lake City and Austin to trial the use of mobile payment technology.

These examples are just the beginning as acceptance rates for the new technology continue to soar. Forrester Research reports that the U.S. will see mobile payments hit $90 billion by 2017, up from $12.8 billion in 2012.

*UPDATE: Google and Softcard have completed an agreement that will leverage the best technology from both companies to create a more robust mobile wallet for consumers. The mobile payment system will keep the Google Wallet name. Read more here.