June 13, 2012, 4:49 PM

Hungry consumers can now pay for Whoppers sans wallets

Burger King is testing mobile payments at 50 restaurants in Salt Lake City.

Lead Photo

Consumers craving a Burger King combo meal in Salt Lake City now need look no further than their smartphone to pay the bill. Burger King Corp. announced today it is testing a mobile payment service in 50 of its locations in the Utah capital and surrounding metropolitan areas.

The BK payment app allows consumers to purchase and use a reloadable mobile BK Crown Card. Consumers can download the app via Apple Inc.’s App Store and Android storehouse Google Play, open the app to access their mobile card, and pay by scanning a QR code placed on counters or drive-up windows of participating restaurants. A QR code is a form of two-dimensional bar code . It appears typically as a black-and-white square with a pattern of tiny black-and-white squares within. Smartphone apps scan these codes by using the phone’s built-in camera.

Burger King is using mobile commerce technology provider Firethorn Mobile Inc. for the mobile payments pilot. The payment application uses First Data Inc. for payment processing. 

The static QR code is unique to each point of sale terminal, Firethorn says.  When a customer scans the code, it identifies the customer and connects her to the specific terminal. No sensitive payment data is stored on the phone, Firethorn says.

 “The customer scans the QR code , the payment is processed, and the virtual gift card is debited and immediately updated with the new balance,” says Chip Fishburne, vice president, business development and marketing for Firethorn. When the balance gets low, a customer can reload the virtual card by logging into the app and entering credit or debit card payment information, which is not stored in the app, Fishburne says.

The consumer has to use the BK Mobile Crown Card app to make a purchase. If the customer does not have the app and scans one of the QR codes with any QR code reader app, she will be directed to a landing page within the BK web site with links to the Apple App Store or Google Play where she can download the application.

"At Burger King, we are focused on delivering an excellent restaurant experience for our guests, which includes optimizing our point of sale technology and providing quick and easy payment options," says Kelly Maddern, chief information officer, Burger King. "The BK Mobile Crown Card is the perfect fit for our technology and quality-conscious consumers who lead mobile lifestyles, and we are excited about putting this functionality into their hands, getting their feedback and building from there."

Rick Oglesby, senior analyst at consulting firm Aite Group LLC, says this program is similar to the Starbucks program in that the merchant is using the mobile channel to extend the reach of its own merchant branded tender. “It helps to increase customer loyalty and extend the duration of consumer’s interactions with the merchant’s brand in addition to providing a unique in-store experience," he says. “I do think consumers will be amenable to this sort of a solution, there are a good number of early adopter consumers who are mobile obsessed that will take to this right away.” However, he says the mobile payment offering will represent single digits in terms percentage of transaction volume for at least the next year.

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