Last May, Sodexo Benefits and Rewards finally digitised its meal vouchers in Luxembourg by launching its Lunch Pass Card. The company is taking another step forward at the beginning of this year with Sodexo Pay, which allows customers to pay directly with their phone.
This functionality has been added to the MySodexo mobile application, which already allows users to geolocate merchants accepting Sodexo lunch tickets or to check the balance of their lunch card. Since 11 January, they can also spend it via the application, but only if their phone is running Android. "We hope to roll out the service in the first quarter of 2022 for other operating systems," the company said.
A monthly cap for Sodexo, for now
The offer is free for employees of Sodexo's corporate clients who use the Lunch Pass Card. How many employees have opted for this option? The company does not give figures. But it does say that "the migration to the card is progressive and has started very well with our pilot clients in 2021. It will continue into 2022." Eventually, will paper meal vouchers disappear? "For the moment, the plan is for the two products to coexist." Sodexo did not wish to detail the price difference between the traditional meal vouchers and the Lunch Pass Card.
In any case, with mobile payment, the rules are the same as with the card. Sodexo explains that there is no daily limit, but rather a monthly limit. It corresponds to, "the amount granted by the employer: number of electronic cheques per month multiplied by the face value. However, possible changes due to new legislation may occur in the future.” Digital vouchers are valid, "for one year from the date of loading, and the oldest ones are automatically used first".
Although the theory is that meal vouchers should only be used for food products, in practice most shops accept them for general shopping, even non-food. Is it the same for the Lunch Pass Card, or does the electronic system block the purchase of non-food products? "Just like paper lunch vouchers, the Sodexo Lunch Pass Card can only be used at affiliated merchants in the Sodexo network for the purchase of food products. “The card can therefore be used in restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries, butchers and caterers in Luxembourg,” Sodexo says.
Edenred also targets mobile payment
The meal voucher supplier Edenred has also launched its vouchers in electronic format, since last December, via a pilot project. For the time being, this involves a payment card with no limit. The company is now waiting for Luxembourg to adapt its law on the subject, at the beginning of the year, since for the moment it provides for the use of only one meal voucher per day. Edenred intends to update the electronic payment according to the decisions that will be taken.
The company does not yet have figures on the proportion of customers who have been won over, but says the news has been received, "very positively", according to its director for Luxembourg and Belgium, Olivier Bouquet. "90% of merchants have already signed the affiliation charter", which means that they will accept the electronic version of meal vouchers. By the end of January or beginning of February 2022, an application to geolocate these partner merchants and track their balance should follow. The mobile payment option will arrive in a second phase, during 2022.
The price is the, "same for similar services," between the paper and electronic offers. But customers choosing the second option, "will no longer have to pay for the delivery of cheques every month,” stresses the director, who hopes to see all his customers migrate to digital in 2022, a solution that is, "more complete and in the spirit of the times".
Regarding the possibility or not of buying non-food products with the electronic card, Olivier Bouquet agrees with Sodexo's position and points out that paper vouchers are also reserved for food products. When asked about a potential blocking system, he believes that, "digital technology allows for a better filtering of the payment at the cash desk between food and non-food items".
While the Luxembourg meal voucher market is shared between Sodexo, which claimed 55,000 beneficiaries in 2020, and Edenred, with 23,250, other players have launched, opting directly for digital. Like LightPay, which has attracted around a hundred partner restaurants since its launch at the end of 2020 and, "several dozen corporate clients". Discussions are also underway with Cora. Its founder, restaurateur Kefah Bader Aldin, is also waiting for the update of the law on meal vouchers to add a ceiling, if necessary. For the moment, there is none. His application also allows us to share the bill, to pass on money to a colleague to collect our meal or to reserve a table in a partner restaurant.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.