This is according to Yum! Brands Chief Financial Officer Chris Turner, who noted during an earnings call the corporation's goal to gradually shift to full cashless transactions at its restaurants. Turner added in a separate interview that more customers would end up ordering through apps, websites or automated kiosks in the stores. He also revealed that the company is already testing use of artificial intelligence to take drive-thru orders. (Related: Businesses in major U.S. cities refusing to take cash payments due to "brutal" series of robberies.)
"Our ability to get to 100 percent [cashless transactions] will depend on new innovations," said Turner.
The company claims that switching to 100 percent digital transactions will make it easier for customers to make impulse transactions with the click of a button. Going cashless and making customers order through screens is also an efficient way for the company to suggest that customers spend more by tacking on additional items to supplement their orders.
"Time and time again, when we shift sales into the digital channels, we see sales acceleration," said Turner. "It really demonstrates how this is such a high return on investment for our franchisees and for us."
Turner noted that the company is using a new customer data platform to survey customer behaviors, and he hopes that the data taken from this survey can be used to increase customer visits.
"Eventually, this and other internal programs will provide the infrastructure to unlock personalized marketing, joint branding and future automation," said Turner.
Yum! Brands' digital offerings have come after a series of acquisitions of tech startups and the funding of in-house efforts to expand the conglomerate's digital abilities. These research and acquisition efforts have been very expensive.
One of its most costly acquisitions, for example, came in 2021 when the company acquired Dragontail Systems – a provider of AI-powered tools for managing restaurant delivery systems – for $66 million. These incremental costs may end up being unsustainable for the company in the long term.
"It's probably expensive to upkeep that … it's not cheap obviously," said Andrew Charles, managing director and restaurant analyst at investment bank TD Cowen.
Yum! currently has no immediate plans for any additional tech acquisitions. Andy Barish, managing director for investment bank Jefferies, noted that the company will likely continue "building, acquiring and integrating all of that to create their Yum commerce platform" and to keep supporting the back-end systems of the company's most notable brands.
"We're not big fans of forcing people to go cashless when dining out," wrote Dennis Lee for The Takeout. "It's one thing to tout the ease and convenience of paying with a card or via digital wallet, but to deny people service because the infrastructure only accepts digital currency means that these businesses wall off those who can only deal in cash … and even if you have a bank account, paying by card is not always preferable."
Yum! Brands currently has not provided a definitive timeline for when their fast food joints plan to go cashless. But the transition may already be ongoing. All Taco Bell stores already have digital ordering kiosks, for example. These kiosks have led to a 35 percent year-over-year increase in digital transactions for Taco Bell.
"Don't be surprised if someday in the not-too-distant future, your Nachos Bell Grande can only be ordered by tapping a cold, hard touchscreen," warned Lee.
Learn more about the declining use of physical cash at CurrencyReset.news.
Watch this episode of "TruNews" as host Rick Wiles discusses the rise in cashless transactions.