Will We Find Digital Tipping at McDonald's? Not Likely

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Starbucks (SBUX) may be encouraging customers to digitally tip their baristas, through its updated Apple (AAPL) iPhone app, but consumers aren't interested in the feature to be used at quick-serve establishments like McDonald's (MCD) or Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

Course the issue of tipping is twofold. First, is the issue of do employees working at non-full service establishments and preparing food and beverages deserve tips? The second issue is, would you tip via your smartphone? According to a nationwide telephone survey conducted for TheStreet by GfK, 60% said that even if mobile apps made it possible to tip workers at fast-food places like McDonald's and fast-casual establishments like Five Guys, having that digital aspect doesn't make them more inclined to tip.

The survey polled 1,005 random respondents via landline and cell phones between March 21 and March 23, 2014.

That said, 36% of respondents, said they would use their smartphones to tip fast-food and fast-casual workers. Interestingly enough, approximately 63% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 said they would digitally tip, while only 30% of those ages 50 to 64 said they would do so. As a result, the biggest age bracket that said no to mobile tipping were respondents ages 50 to 64, with 68% of the group saying they wouldn't digitally tip quick-serve workers.

The survey also found that 45% of those making less than $50,000 said they would tip, while 30% of respondents making more than $50,000 said they would digitally tip.

For the most part, fast-food chains and their stepped up cousins -- fast-casual eateries -- are just getting on board when it comes to mobile apps. The functionality of restaurants apps varies widely. Restaurants like Yum! Brands (YUM) Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, Chipotle (CMG) and others have mainly been focusing on the mobile ordering part of their smartphone apps. Taco Bell said last month it plans to roll out mobile ordering at 6,000 locations later this year.

Starbucks has been at the forefront of mobile payments for food and beverage establishments, and is presumably one of the first chains to allow for tipping via smartphones. Offline, Starbucks baristas have been accepting tips for years and who hasn't at some point put extra change from their lattes in the established tip jar?

But what if more companies did it and provided an easy way to tip through our smartphone? We tip the pizza delivery guy, whether he's from Pizza Hut, Domino's (DPZ) or our local independent pizzeria, why not the person that makes the pizza or burgers all with the tap of our smartphone? Starbucks is doing it, and there are a handful of independent apps hooking up with full-service restaurants to make paying and tipping easier through smartphone technology.

The digital wallet is a hot topic these days. Is it so far-fetched to think that one day Pizza Hut's mobile app will have a tipping option as well? Just a thought.

--Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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