By Julia Love
HALF MOON BAY, Calif (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) coffee shops will begin accepting Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) mobile payment system in a pilot program starting this year, Apple Vice President Jennifer Bailey said on Thursday.
KFC and Chili's restaurants also will begin accepting Apple Pay in 2016, she said at the Re/code technology conference in Half Moon Bay, California.
The service gives Apple a chance to tie customers more tightly to its phones and its smart watch, as well as to take a tiny bite from every retail transaction.
Apple launched the payment service a year ago and has claimed 2015 would be the "year of Apple Pay" as it aggressively courts retailers.
But interviews by Reuters with analysts, merchants and others have suggested that Apple's forecast may have been too optimistic and that many retailers remain skeptical about the payment system.
Customer demand for mobile wallets has been slow, and analysts agree that they remain a tiny percentage of U.S. retail transactions.
Brinker International (EAT.N) owns the Chili's restaurant brand, while KFC is operated by Yum! Brands (YUM.N).
(Reporting by Julia Love, writing by Noel Randewich; Editing by Christian Plumb, Alan Crosby and Dan Grebler)