Review: Mastercard launches mobile payment app at Wagamama.

For an app that has been three years in the development with Mastercard’s money behind it, Qkr! is rather underwhelming:

  • It hasn’t been customised for the UK market
  • The user experience is not intuitive
  • The payment mechanism (generating a code that the retailer punches manually into the till system) seems unnecessarily clumsy
  • I’m not enthusiastic about its security being a password, rather than a passcode or fingerprint
  • The brand name is a random selection of consonants which people will find rather hard to remember
  • There’s confusion between Masterpass and Qkr! branding throughout

See what you think.

I love Wagamama. Its blend of ramen style asian fusion, quick service and friendly staff makes it a great place for a fast, healthy meal. So when I read that Wagamama was now accepting a new mobile payment app from Mastercard called Qkr! I knew what I was having for lunch.

Casual dining chains typically report an average checkout time of nine minutes or more. Mobile payments apps should be able to speed this up significantly, resulting in happier customers and faster turning tables. Finish your food. Tap your phone. Leave. What could be better? Here’s how Qkr! works at Wagamama.

First, visit the app store. No problems there. Its easily found provided you can remember its Qkr! rather than kQr!, Qrk! or some other random selection of consonants. The branding, complete with mini supermarket trolley, is more grocery than restaurant though. And prices are displayed in Euros which would make people think question whether they’d arrived at the correct app for the UK.

Qkr! in the Apple Appstore

The app asks whether it can send notifications and access your location even when it’s not open. Fair enough.

Qkr! permission screen

Qkr! then disappears. and MasterPass pops up to ask the next set of questions, including which country you live in. The app, which has just gained access to my location, should know this already.

Qkr! location prompt

Then there’s a fairly conventional sign up screen, asking for name, email and a password. The password is six characters with no restrictions. I would prefer a passcode as a set of numbers is much easier to input when the time comes to pay.

Qkr! log in details

Then some security questions. This is another example of non-customisation to local market requirements. We don’t have “third grade” in the UK.


Then a photo. Smile! The Qkr! brand reappears at the bottom of the screen but misspelled as QkR. It also loses the !  but gains a TM instead.


Next, add a payment card. Respect to Mastercard for letting me use my American Express card and I liked the cheeky touch of splashing some Mastercard colours on the top right hand corner.

Qkr! add card screen

Then an email arrives notifying me that the card has been added. That’s a good touch which reinforces the app’s security credentials but doesn’t mention Qkr! at all. Again, there’s the potential for customer confusion.

Qkr! confirmation email

So far, so good. I sped into town and ordered a Chicken Ramen at Wagamama on Wigmore Street, just behind Selfridges.

chicken ramen

When it came to pay, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I’d assumed there would be a QR code on the bill. No, there  wasn’t. I went back into the app, rooted around and found a button that allowed me to “check in” to the restaurant. This really wasn’t a very obvious step but worked smoothly once I understood what was needed. The app then returned me a very large four digit number. The instructions were to give this code to the server. Note that there’s now no branding at all, neither MasterPass or Qkr!

Qkr! check-in screen

She wrote the number on her hand and strode across the restaurant to the till. The servers are equiped with mobile devices but evidently they’ve not been integrated with Qkr! yet.

The low-tech bit

The server went across the restaurant to punch the four digit number into the till. I noticed a button marked “leave” displayed in the top right. It wasn’t clear whether that meant leave the app or leave the restaurant but I hit it anyway. “Check out” or “Pay Bill” would be better terms to use. Or use the trolley icon throughout to signpost users to the checkout.

The server came back and together we waited about 30 seconds for the transaction to close and the bottom bar on the app to turn green. This indicates that you are ready to pay. You then press “Your Bill is Ready,” to generate the bill.

Qkr! ready to pay

To pay the bill you press the picture of a supermarket trolley on the next screen; not really the most appropriate icon picture for a restaurant.

Qkr! view bill

The app next prompts for a tip.

Qkr! gratuity prompt

Next comes the prompt for a Qkr! password.  Confusingly, the sign-on screen in which you initially create the password is branded MasterPass. Did I create a Qkr! password or a MasterPass one? It may not matter. In fact, the password is optional and you can disable the prompt from the setting menu.

Qkr! password prompt

Finally Qkr! generates a confirmation screen and emails you a copy of the receipt.

Qkr! thank you

Qkr! receipt

My server was well trained, helpful, interested and a credit to Wagamama. She was delighted when I explained that tips were generally higher when people paid with apps. It’s certainly in the staff’s interest to promote this new way of paying.

I was impressed that the Qkr! app worked first time. That‘s a non-trivial achievement for Mastercard and Wagamama and I wouldn’t want to minimise the effort that’s gone in to this implementation.

But better solutions are available. For example, Flypay is a mobile payment app designed for the restaurant trade which has a signficantly better user experience. Your checkout by simply scanning a QR code stuck to the table top. You can try using it at Wahaca. And Apple Pay’s in-app payment option (when it becomes available in Europe) will be streets ahead of where Qkr! is today. Zapp too, I would expect.

Wagamama is misssing an opportunity as well. Qkr! is a generic payment app that Mastercard would like many merchants to accept and I can see its relevance for shoppers who visit a particular brand only rarely. But Wagamama is a popular chain with a loyal and regular clientele which would be better served building its own user experience that offered multiple payment options such as Flypay, Apple Pay, Qkr! or even PayPay.

This is just what brands as diverse as Greggs and Starbucks are doing. With its own app, Wagamama would begin to build a database of its customers, when they come in and what they eat when they do. This is a potential marketing goldmine and it would be a shame to miss the opportunity.


7 thoughts on “Review: Mastercard launches mobile payment app at Wagamama.”

    1. Hi Mike,

      Emailed receipts from Qkr have VAT number included and it is not just limited to newer receipts. You may email your earlier receipt and notice the VAT number present. Hope this helps.

  1. I found this a really useful review and view on the process. Could I ask, 6 months on has this changed / improved at all, or even as a consumer are you using Qkr at all?

  2. The reviewer misses the point that this is not just a payment system, you can order from the menu with it to – well most of the menu. There is a deliberate flaw though – you can’t order mains with Qkr.

    Wagamama say: “our reasons being that we find that first order is very important in establishing a rapport with the server – so that if there are any issues with an aspect of the meal, the guest has an established ‘someone’ to go to; it is also so that the server can explain our method of service and any specials/events happening at the time”

    The beauty is not having to try and attract the attention of a server in a busy restaurant at time you are ready to order, it is completely irrelevant whether that be a drink a side or a main.

    This is clearly nonsense and does not make sense. Your main is probably the last thing you want to order, or as here, maybe even not at all. I pointed this out to them but got no response. I suspect they want customers to order the main first as this takes longest and by taking this order in straight away they can get people out quicker and increase revenue. Positive eating? Positive profit and clearly could not care less what is easiest for the customer.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Chris, and I can understand your frustration.
      Actually, the review was published almost 12 months ago before the ability to order was included in the app so I think I’m forgiven for not mentioning it!

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