2021 Payment Trends and Innovations for QSR & Fast Casual Dining


The restaurant ecosystem is filled with innovative methods with a focus on ordering and payment.

In mid-2021, we sat down with a team of experts in the restaurant technology and payments industries to talk about trends from a variety of perspectives including guest, operator, and multi-unit brand.

Here’s a recap of that discussion. The original post was shared by our sister company, Xenial.

Current Trend

We recall the tough year of 2020, where silence filled the public places, and QSR/Fast Casual restaurants relied on curbside pick up, drive thrus, and other contactless methods. According to experts, these trends are here to stay. 

Let’s talk about innovation. Here are a few highlights of key points we’ve heard from our customers:

  • The need to serve more guests in more ways in the drive-thru
  • Speed of service was never more critical, and it’s the next problem to solve
  • Many customers have turned to line busting to speed up service. When they did, they lost the ability to time every interaction happening in the drive-thru because traditional timers only time the guest between the menu board/speaker post and the window.
  • Order accuracy is the number one request of drive-thru guests. When you line bust to speed up service and increase velocity, you also potentially lose track of associating a particular order with a particular vehicle or guest. This is especially true for merging ‘Y’ or dual-lane drive-thrus. 

Innovation is Today’s Reality and Tomorrow’s Necessity

Speaking of innovations, we’ve been fast-tracking touchless payments solutions, advancements to simplify self-service management of digital menu boards, and tracking speed of service accurately.

For a lot of decades, not much has changed in fast food. Now we’re seeing exponential changes in short periods of time. Suddenly, disruptors have appeared everywhere: online ordering, delivery, and the like, and it was all accelerated by the pandemic.

We offer a full product suite that completely innovates the ordering experience, including self-order kiosks for indoors and outdoors to help address labor challenges and service times. 

Not only are brands trying to improve speed, accuracy and quality in terms of serving guests and preparing food but also addressing trying to do more with less, in light of staffing shortages.

If an order and payment can be accepted online or in an app, it’s going to expedite ordering and payment for that guest and for other guests who patronize the restaurant. Plus, it’s a win for the restaurant because it removes the repetitive transactional steps from a crew member’s duties and gets that customer in and out quickly.

If you look at mobile apps or even mobile payment devices, you start to think about all the ways these can be used to speed up service. Maybe the guest orders while they are in line at the restaurant, or in the parking lot or the lobby, and they don’t even need to join the queue waiting to order at the counter.

All things need to be considered, as innovation is happening at a breakneck pace right now. We’re doing a lot to help brands boost speed of service, ease of payment, and the security that’s all wrapped around it.

Changes in Consumer Behavior

Delivery became a necessity during the pandemic lockdowns. A brand’s ability to execute on delivery depended on the maturity of the infrastructure and components they had in place.

Adjustments in service models and guest interactions have been driven by safety, foremost. Where are we? What insights have we learned?

Things like digital wallets are popular and make a lot of sense for everyone. But it’s not necessarily easy, and not all restaurant operators or their partners are prepared to accept these kinds of payment methods.

New Ways of Paying Are Becoming the New Norm

The experiences of Covid that accelerated adoption of mobile wallets, tap-to-pay, order-ahead and pay online/in-app as well as QR code-based touchless payments also pointed out the fact that the ‘old’ ways of paying really were that: old, and we didn’t need them. This has prompted people to continue to adopt and use the newer frictionless payment methods as a matter of habit.

Frictionless experiences are the new gold standard. Payment (and payments) should not get in the way. 

When consumers start going digital in their restaurant experiences, they are entering a realm that they have some semblance of familiarity with, from their online / ecommerce retail experiences.

As guests start to connect a digital experience with the classic brick and mortar physical presence, they recognize how smooth these experiences can be.

What opportunities can we help our customers pursue? What’s the next thing brands should be thinking about?

It’s important to not just get pulled by customers but be ready to lean into what’s next by being prepared.

  • There’s a lot of data in your payments transactions. Be sure to mine it!
  • Look for a frictionless and flexible payments solutions/system
  • Look for systems that work cohesively across all ordering and payment methods and channels: EMV, Wallets, Tap to Pay, Online/In-app, Pay with QR code. Having something that ‘plays nice’ across the board can eliminate disparate systems and the associated costs, while driving insights back to the business
  • Remember the importance of understanding guests and delivering those insights to the business
  • Ongoing change is a sure thing, and new payments and transaction methods will emerge, so work with partners that integrate with your current systems and offer solutions that are future-ready by design

NEXTEP  Offers Payments Innovations

NEXTEP has it all. We are traditionally known as a restaurant technology company, but we are also owned by a payments company. We can offer both but we don’t require you to buy both from us. In other words, you can get technology without requiring our payments, and you can get our payments solutions without necessarily having to buy our technology. We’re here for both and we’d love to be your single partner, to simplify your life and give you one hand to shake and one call for support.