McDonald's Alan Liddle

McDonald’s starts mobile order and pay

A beta test in California, Washington aims at providing feedback for national launch

McDonald’s Corp. this week took its first step toward offering consumers the ability to order and pay via phone. 

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based burger giant, intent on improving the efficiency inside of its restaurants, started a beta test at 29 restaurants in Monterey and Salinas, Calif., this week. It expands that test to Spokane, Wash., next week. 

The local pilot tests are designed to get customer feedback and prepare the chain for a national launch of the functions later this year.

The app enables customers to order, pay and then choose where they get their food — through the drive thru, at the front counter or through curbside pickup, a new option the chain is kicking off at its 14,000 restaurants this year.

Customers choose their restaurant through the app, which checks them in through geofencing technology once they get close to the restaurant. That technology also enables diners to go to any McDonald’s location — even one they don’t initially choose. The app simply knows diners have arrived.

“We look forward to learning from our customers in these markets as they order ahead, pay with the app and choose one of various ways to pick up and enjoy their favorite McDonald’s foods,” Julia Vander Ploeg, vice president of U.S. digital for the chain, said in a statement.

McDonald’s has high hopes for the app and for curbside delivery, believing that the functionality will help improve service times both inside the stores and, more importantly, through the drive thru. 

The company said last month that it has lost 500 million transactions since 2012. Executives have also indicated that service times declined in 2016.

Executives told analysts and investors last month that the company could save 15 seconds per order if 20 percent of drive-thru customers ordered curbside, and another 20 percent ordered their food via mobile. That would give the drive-thru enough capacity for 20 more cars during a peak hour.

Ultimately, the app is expected to partner with delivery services as well. McDonald’s has started testing delivery with UberEats in Florida, but company executives have said they plan on quickly adding the delivery service nationwide. 

“We are proud to pilot mobile ordering and pay in the Monterey and Salinas area and are excited by the opportunity given to our local restaurant teams and customers,” Northern California owner/operator Steve Peat said in a statement. “McDonald’s is empowering customers to order when and how they want, and delivering a uniquely flexible experience at the speed and convenience we are known for.”

The beta test is one of many tests McDonald’s is currently conducting on food and service styles. The company has kicked off an expanded version of the McCafé beverage program in California. It is also planning to roll out its kiosk-based Experience of the Future format to more restaurants this year. 

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter at @jonathanmaze

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