McDonald’s is taking good care of new friend Apple Inc. Representatives of the burger chain were up before dawn today to provide apple pies and apple slices (along with shirts, sunglasses and phone accessories) to early adopters lined up in the dark at Apple stores in Chicago and New York. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were going on sale when the stores opened at 8 a.m.
McDonald’s hopes everyone snaps up an iPhone 6 since it announced last week that it will accept Apple Pay—the new mobile payment system that works with the new iPhone 6s and Apple Watch—at all U.S. restaurants beginning next month. Customers keep a finger on the iPhones 6’s Touch ID and hold their devices near a contactless NFC (near field communication) reader to pay for a meal inside at counters or at drive-thrus. McDonald’s says its operators “invested in the NFC technology for restaurant point-of-sale systems as part of the company’s digital strategy and commitment to customers’ emerging needs.”
“Apple Pay enhances our global digital strategy and is a win for McDonald’s customers who desire greater speed and ease,” Atif Rafiq, McDonald’s SVP-global chief digital officer, said in a statement announcing the partnership. “Apple’s transformative mobile payments service brings a new level of convenience to McDonald’s customers, allowing them to instantly pay and stay, or pay and be on their way. Our support of mobile payment options further demonstrates our commitment to be an influential leader in the retail digital space.”
In June, Rafiq, who previously had held senior posts at Amazon and Yahoo, opened a McDonald’s corporate office in downtown San Francisco, a move that raised eyebrows about its intentions. At the time, Rafiq told Ad Age that the office provided a way to recruit digital-skilled employees and “a way for us to be more plugged into the flow of ideas.” Especially those from Apple, with which it already had been in contact.
Rafiq told Mashable that McDonald’s is responding to a market need for faster service and easier transactions via smartphones, which 85% of the key Millennial audience own. “It’s the new expectation for consumers,” he told Mashable’s Todd Wasserman. “It’s frictionless and gives a lot more power to the customer.”
Wasserman, however, sees the potential for friction from Android smartphone users, who outnumber iPhone users two to one. Rafiq says McDonald’s system will be able to handle Google Wallet and other NFC payment plans.