Smartphones & Fast Food: The Growing Technology

As computer technology has continued to advance over the last 30 years, so have businesses continued to develop new ways to utilize the technology to drive workplace productivity and increase sales. 

Grocery stores have self-checkout lines; cameras and computers have increased driver safety in automobiles; and 3D imaging has, once again, revolutionized the film industry.  But another industry, one that millions of Americans use on a daily basis, that has been quick to incorporate modern technological advances is the fast food industry. 

Ever since the McDonald brothers first introduced the ‘assembly-line’ system to their local burger restaurant in the 1940s, the fast food industry (and the food-service industry in general) has continued to serve as pioneers in bringing new technologies to old and modern businesses.  Technologies like food preparation software, inventory-tracking systems, and metrics systems have driven customer service quality, improved sales, and made employee scheduling and consumer trends that much easier to handle. 

On top of basic computer software, the internet has brought an entirely new way of ordering and shopping for food to the consumer.  Restaurants now have interactive websites that display their menu items, pricing, and the option of ordering on the site with a credit card or cash.  A perfect example of this is Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, or Dominos.  All three have interactive websites that allow you to build your own pizza, and Dominos has even developed the site to show the employee that is making your food, what the progress on your order is, and when the order is on its way to your house. 

Perhaps the most recent, and most interesting trend among the fast food industry, however, is the development of the smartphone app.  Companies like McDonalds, Chipotle, 7-Eleven, and Taco Bell have already developed apps for their customers to place an order on their phone that can be ready by the time they arrive at the store.  Some companies, like Wendy’s, are still preparing to drop such technology, but one conglomerate that will have a new app available this month is Starbucks. 

Starbucks customers will now be able to utilize an app to place an order for pick-up.  The app allows you to select which store you want to pick-up from, what menu items you would like to order, and the option of paying through the app so that all you have to do when you arrive is grab your order and continue on your way.  The app will also show you the estimated pick-up time and allow you to switch stores depending on your location.  Some companies are now utilizing this technology as sales incentives for customers as well, offering discounts for ordering online or through your smartphone. 

Because this technology is so new, a lot of companies are still waiting to see whether or not it will help increase sales and how the customer service experience will be affected by it.  One of the main concerns is that as the number of online orders continues to increase and becomes even with that of in-house orders, will it make for longer waiting times and have a negative effect on customer retention.  Test runs are still being conducted and research is sure to continue as the technology becomes more and more popular and its impact on the industry begins to surface, but it seems like a new reality that companies that want to maintain their sales and standing among the general public will have to adopt.  The new Starbucks app is expected to be available starting Tuesday, September 22, 2015.