Mobile ordering apps began entering the quick-service industry in the mid-2010s. Fast-food chains like Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, and McDonald’s built proprietary apps where customers can view menus and purchase meals all through the convenience of their mobile phones. This electronic system benefits customers by establishing a seamless transaction between purchasing and receiving meals. These platforms operate through M-commerce, so restaurant chains can receive money through online transactions. Since 2014, mobile sales have increased 300% quicker compared to dine-in and factors for 40% of restaurant sales. Mobile ordering apps are a way for quick-service industries to adapt to the age of technology.
COVID-19 and Mobile Ordering
Amid the pandemic, mobile orders were at their peak as people began to focus more on contactless ways to serve others. With all in-store dining options closed, drive-thru lines got longer, and wait times increased. Mobile ordering was a way for customers to get their orders faster by skipping the line. Some chains like Chick-fil-a implemented curbside delivery where mobile order customers parked in a labeled parking spot and an employee brought out their order. Other chains like Taco Bell or Dunkin opened up “speed” lanes for guests with mobile orders. The pandemic helped develop these new food service options for consumers and turned them into common practice.
Fast-food chains are offering discounts and rewards to incentivize customers to download mobile ordering apps. Customers believe that they are saving money and corporations get more business.
Common discounts these apps offer are free delivery or a percentage taken off of an order. Discounts can be given out to customers who do not go to the restaurant as often in an attempt to increase their activity.
Many rewards are earned through a point system — when a customer spends money, they earn points to get free items. These point incentives increase engagement, promote frequent purchases, and attract both new and existing users. Popular chains like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-a have millions of online customers. The MyMcDonald’s rewards app has 21 million users and the Chick-fil-a One app has 13 million users. Points are a satisfying way for consumers to stay active on their platforms.
Data is a valuable tool that helps corporations learn what customers like and dislike. These mobile ordering platforms gather data on what customers typically purchase and at what times of the day. This helps corporations understand what items they need to have in stock and when. It also shows which items are less popular and need to be discontinued.
The M-Commerce operation of the app allows for multiple different ways for customers to pay. Some fast-food industries like Starbucks offer reloadable prepaid cards. Similar to a gift card, these prepaid cards are a benefit to corporations because it produces revenue in advance of giving a product to the customer.
These mobile ordering apps boost revenue for corporations by encouraging customers to frequently visit and spend more at fast-food restaurants. By getting customers to return more regularly, they can produce more profit. They get them to spend more by reminding them of new menu items and have “add on” sections near the checkout button so it makes it easy to purchase more than the consumer originally intended to.
Mobile ordering apps aid in speeding up day-to-day operations by moving traffic quicker during peak times. The app reduces congestion by not having to manually take everyone’s orders and makes business more manageable for employees.
It can be difficult for both customers and employees when the price of items is not clearly labeled. Customers feel like they are getting ripped off and employees have to spend extra time with the customers to sort out any confusion. Mobile ordering apps eliminate this confusion by listing the price of all items and adding up all total charges so the customer knows exactly what they will spend before even arriving at the restaurant.
Ordering through a speaker at a fast-food restaurant can be a struggle for customers and employees. Lack of effective communication results in employees filling orders wrong and customers not receiving what they wanted. Mobile ordering platforms prevent this barrier by making the customer submit their order online. Employees receive the meal request and fill it how the customer requested. This electronic system creates a smoother fast food experience.
While the traditional system of ordering fast food will continue to be around, mobile ordering apps are increasing in popularity and are modifying the way consumers and service providers interact in the quick service-industry.