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How Payment Strategies Can Deliver Restaurant Sales Amid Rising Prices and Shifting Demand

95% of sit-down restaurants and 87% of fast-food restaurants intend to add more payment methods between now and 2025. With customer demand for new payment options at an all-time high, restaurants need to adopt new payment methods to stay competitive.

To get an accurate view of the situation, we surveyed restaurant leaders about how they currently use payments and how they plan to adapt. Our latest report details the survey’s findings in order to unlock strategies on the best ways to design the right approach for adopting new methods. Read now to learn about:

  • The current state of payment trends
  • The rise of digital wallets
  • The value of gift cards and loyalty points
  • Leveraging promotions

How Payment Strategies Can Deliver Restaurant Sales


The economic uncertainty that comes with rising interest rates and a potential decrease in consumer spending can play uniquely in the restaurant space. Amid rising prices, consumers may trade down their dining experience, opting for less expensive restaurant options. But despite these challenges, restaurants can encourage customer loyalty, bring in new patrons, streamline the checkout process and ultimately ring higher tabs by incorporating and offering new payment options.

Restaurants recognize the benefits that alternative payment methods can bring to their business, but some hesitate to adopt these new payment methods, thinking they will take a lot of time and effort to implement. These are some of the findings that Restaurant Dive’s studioID, on behalf of Blackhawk Network, uncovered in a survey of restaurant leaders about how they currently use payments and how they plan to adapt.

Three in four fast-food restaurant operators say they offer the payment methods they believe their customers want, while just over half of sit-down restaurant operators feel the same. Both groups overwhelmingly indicate that they will introduce new offerings in the next one to three years.

How all types of restaurants will put new payment methods in place and promote them to customers are important considerations to bring value to diners and attract higher tabs. Continue reading as we detail the survey’s findings to unlock strategies on the best ways to incorporate payment methods to position your restaurant for the future.

Percentage of restaurants that intend to add more payment methods between now and 2025:

  • Sit-down: 95%
  • Fast-food: 87%

Where Things Stand

Cash remains among the top payment methods at all restaurants, especially at fast-food restaurants, where cash is the most commonly received form of payment. But as consumer desire for alternative payment options has grown, digital wallets have become a top-four payment method at fast-food and sit-down eateries.

This tracks with overall business trends. National grocers, for instance, tend to experience new payment trends faster than other brick-andmortar sectors. In a separate survey conducted by studioID’s Grocery Dive on behalf of Blackhawk Network, 20% percent of consumers reported using digital wallets weekly for grocery payments. That was reflected by 84% of surveyed grocers saying they receive digital wallet payments daily.

While fast-food restaurants still handle a lot of cash, they have been willing to shift with payment trends more quickly than sit-down restaurants have. Fast-food operators accept digital wallets in more significant numbers than sit-down restaurateurs (69% vs. 60%, respectively), perhaps because their business model relies on fast and easy transactions for customers who come and go quickly. It’s also possible that certain sit-down restaurants that cater to more affluent and older customers haven’t seen a need to adapt as aggressively. But sit-down restaurants have shown a desire to move with consumer trends, with nearly every type of restaurant indicating that they will add new payment options in the next one to three years.

Fast-food operators have adopted digital wallet payments more quickly than sit-down restaurants.

  • Fast-food: 69%
  • Sit-down: 60%

The New Core Four

Digital wallets are table stakes for all restaurants. Consumers reported paying by digital wallets at fast-food (12%) and sit-down (10%) restaurants on a weekly basis. That was reflected by over half of restaurants surveyed received digital wallet payments every day.

% Who Received Daily

Changing Tastes

Consumers love to eat out. And as economic uncertainty grows, they will look for ways to stretch their dining dollar. Consumers responding to our survey reported that they have recently considered using several alternative payment methods for shopping and dining—especially gift cards, loyalty points and credit card points. And outside of gift cards and points, consumers want to use digital wallets.

Changing Times, Changing Payment Methods

Consumers are interested in using alternative forms of payment for shopping and dining out.

Q: Which of the following alternative payments have you considered using in the last six months?

  • Gift cards: 52%
  • Credit card points: 47%
  • Loyalty points: 39%
  • Digital wallet: 35%
  • Buy now, pay later: 16%
  • Cryptocurrency: 9%

These trends become more apparent when seeking to attract younger diners. All forms of alternative payments grow in importance when evaluating Millennial and Generation Z spending trends. This shift, however, is especially stark among younger consumers. In a separate study, 43% of respondents under the age of 26 said they planned to pay for holiday gifts this year using a physical gift card, with 41% indicating PayPal or Venmo and 38% stating a digital wallet.

Meanwhile, about one-third of customers have said that they have chosen not to dine at a restaurant that did not offer their preferred payment method.

  • 43% Physical gift card
  • 41% PayPal/Venmo
  • 38% Mobile wallet
  • 36% Digital gift card
  • 33% Loyalty points
  • 30% Credit Card points
  • 27% BNPL
  • 17% Cryptocurrency

Sending It Back

35% of surveyed consumers report that they always or sometimes choose not to purchase at a store or restaurant that does not accept their preferred payment method. And when it comes to restaurants specifically, they are more likely to return to — and spend more at — eateries offering more payment options.

Q: If the following establishments accepted more forms of payment (e.g., digital wallets, cryptocurrency, or buy now, pay later) would you be more likely …

If the following establishments accepted more forms of payment (e.g., digital wallets, cryptocurrency, or buy now, pay later) would you be more likely …

Younger Consumers Look to Alternative Payments This Holiday Season

The Power of Points

Consumers will seek out deals when food prices and the price of goods and services rise. Our survey respondents’ interest in using loyalty and credit card points for shopping and dining signals an opportunity for all types of restaurants: Consumers want to continue to dine out and are looking for ways to save money. Restaurant loyalty points can encourage repeat visits, and diners want the ability to use credit card points at both fast-food and sitdown restaurants.

Across all their purchases, consumers in the U.S. and Canada report a willingness to lean on loyalty and credit card points. When asked about the payment methods they’ve recently considered using, Canadian consumers demonstrated increased interest in using points to offset their costs.

Loyalty Pays

Q: Which of the following alternative payments have you considered using in the last six months?


  • Credit card points: 42%
  • Loyalty points: 28%


  • Credit card points: 52%
  • Loyalty points: 39%

Gifting Your Restaurant

Gift cards have a unique presence within restaurant payments. Gift card sales are valuable to restaurants because they lock in revenue and can encourage diners to order more once they’re sitting at the table. For sit-down restaurants, 57% of organizations say they offer gift cards, while 44% of fast-food restaurants say the same.

Year after year, restaurant gift cards are a top choice for holiday giving. In a separate research study by Blackhawk Network, surveyed shoppers conveyed their intention to spend 18% more on all types of gift cards in the 2022 holiday shopping season than they did in 2021. And when the economy struggles, the value of a gift card increases. It allows your customers to outsource the cost of their meal — by receiving it as a gift. Consumers say they would use gift cards at sit-down and fast-food restaurants (63%) — more so than other alternative payment methods.

Gifting Value

In a less-than-ideal economy, diners will lean on gift cards for their nights out.

Survey respondents said they would use these alternative payment methods daily, weekly or a few times a year if offered.

Survey respondents said they would use these alternative payment methods daily, weekly or a few times a year if offered.

Promising Promotions

Incorporating a new payment method is most successful when the restaurant promotes the new capability to its customers. While restaurant operators feel that digital advertising (39%) and email and text messages (38%) are the most effective ways to promote new payment methods, customers would prefer to hear about them when they visit the restaurant.

Implementing and promoting new payment offerings at your restaurant can provide incremental sales and foot traffic. Better yet, alternative payment providers have invested in the success of their restaurant partners, so they will often subsidize these promotions.

“Customers want to stretch their dollar when they dine out,” says Tristan Roffey, Vice President of Payments for Blackhawk Networks. “Incorporating ways to offer incentives and ways they can save money can encourage repeat business and help them justify the higher tab.”

Calling All Customers

Customers are most responsive to discounts when restaurants offer new payment methods, but convenience and security also factor in.

Q: Why would you try a new payment method at a restaurant? xxx

Why would you try a new payment method at a restaurant?

A recipe for Innovation

Restaurants hesitate to incorporate alternative payment methods for various reasons, including the perception that it will take a lot of time to learn a new payment system, the complexity of implementing and managing the system, and the fees involved with the new payment method. These are all valid reasons, but instead of ignoring these options, it’s important to streamline the process. By leaning on partners like Blackhawk Network, you can design the right approach to adopting new methods. This will give you a hands-on, aggressive, plug-and-play strategy to attract customers and encourage higher tabs with more relevant payment methods.

Finding a partner like Blackhawk Network can help eliminate unknowns and drive incremental revenue via a universe of payment methods. This offers a powerful resource at times when customer demands shifts.

“When uncertainty rises, it’s important to address areas of your organization that can help,” says Roffey. “Incorporating new payment methods not only can drive new business, but also has the potential to bring in higher tabs and boost your revenue, even as economic uncertainty rises.

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