Fast Food Apps: What Works and What Fails
Every day our cell phones are changing our lives. Some of it for the better. Some of it for the worse. 20 years ago we were all ditching our pagers in favor of phones we took with us. We went from holding cumbersome brick phones to slim computers that just happen to have a phone attached to them.
Right now it seems we're in a period where fast food restaurants are really trying to ramp up getting people to use their apps to order food before heading to the drive through. I've been hesitant to adopt this because I spent years trying to remember my user name and password for the three or four pizza chains I order from and for years it seemed to take longer to put an app order in than just calling the store.
Somewhere in the last couple of years most of the pizza chains updated their apps to make it easier to order. I also finally started remembering my user names and passwords. So I solved that problem for myself.
A few weeks ago a couple of co-workers told me about the deals on Burger King's app. They were getting a meal deal that fed both of them for about five bucks. That's pretty good. My wife Kathy and I like to use the Taco Bell app, because well, a Taco Bell order in our hosue isn't a simple one. Many items and many customizations make it difficult to show up at the drive through and give them an order, much less get it right.
So what works and doesn't work with Fast Food apps?
First the drawbacks. Many fast food places use GPS for the app to tell them when you're showing up in their parking lot. That's great if the app you're putting the order in with is the app that's on the phone you show up to the store with. It's not, if say your spouse puts in the order and you're picking it up. We've run into that issue at McDonald's and Sonic. In McDonald's case they didn't even get the order because my wife put the order in and sent me there to pick it up.
Sometimes the app menu doesn't match up to everything the fast food place has on it's menu. For example, we wanted to use the Burger King app to order lunch this afternoon. My wife wanted to try their pulled pork sandwich special. Neither of us could find it on the app. I took the time to download it, start plugging in menu items, only to have to order on the speaker because the pulled pork sandwich wasn't on th app menu. Or if it was it was hiding somewhere we didn't check.
Occasionally, places don't start your order until you show up. There was one Taco Bell store I'd go to that would get the order and sit on it until I showed up at the store. While I appreciate hot food and them getting an acurate order, it certainly wasn't a time saver.
The benefits are more obvious and universal. First and foreformost: Order accuracy. I've used apps at Taco Bell, McDonald's, Sonic and Subway. All of my orders have been 100% accurate. Secondly, it is a time saver. I'm not ordering at the window, I've already paid, and in many cases with the order already in the pipe line there's less of a wait. Sometimes the order is done and it's in and out.
The other benefit is deals. I was really impressed when I downloaded the Burger King app. There seemed to be a deal for everyone. Burger eaters, chicken eaters, couples, big eaters, people looking for a snack. Something for everyone. Sonic too, with their happy hour on drinks all the time. Impressive.
Generally, I like ordering through apps. The restaurant receives the order exactly how I want it. It's already paid for when I show up. And in many cases it makes going out and fetching food a little quicker.