Ever dream that one day you could order Taco Bell’s (NYSE:YUM) famed Doritos Locos Tacos straight from your mobile device? You may be in luck. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, the popular fast food chain has been testing an app it developed two-and-a-half years ago that allows customers to order ahead using smartphones, and it looks like the service will officially be launched this year in all U.S. cities.
Taco Bell is just one of many restaurant chains that has been flexing its muscles in the digital world and working to roll out service updates that help it better serve its customers and keep the company on level playing field with competitors. Though the company initially faced operational challenges with the app, it has been able to work through them via testing. According to recent National Restaurant Association research, highlighted by Nation’s Restaurant News, 74 percent of consumers from 18 to 34 years old said they would order takeout/delivery on a mobile device if it were available.
Taco Bell’s new service will offer customers the chance to pre-order their food and then pick it up at a drive-thru window. This is a significant step for fast food chains that have long had their call box and pick-up windows. It’s likely a trend that will soon take over many companies’ businesses as more consumers get smartphones and are interested in taking advantage of new technology. National pizza chains like Papa John’s, Domino’s, and Taco Bell sister brand Pizza Hut have already taken advantage of online and mobile ordering, but no restaurant has yet to launch a pre-order mobile app.
Taco Bell is targeting the millennial generation — that growing group of consumers that have their faces glued to their mobile devices. Because most of these customers already have smartphones, the company is expecting a seamless integration of its new technology and believes that the conveniency of the new app may even attract more consumers.
So how does the new technology work? Nation’s Restaurant News reports that Taco Bell’s app is unique in that it has a message that varies depending on the time of day and what meal customers are likely to be ordering. “Hey hungry human, ready to get your lunch on?” is the question customers are asked around noon.
Following the initial prompt, the app opens first to the menu and then immediately to a Taco Bell store locator, so pricing specific to the user’s location appears. Next, customers are offered the opportunity to customize menu selections and also save their favorite orders. Upsell opportunities opportunities are also still available, meaning Taco Bell always makes sure to ask if customers want a drink or dessert with that.
As for payment, Taco Bell will have guests load Taco Bell gift cards or use their credit cards to pay. In addition, to guarantee that the food is prepared hot when the guest arrives, the system uses a GPS locator to track when the person placing the order is near, giving the kitchen an indication of when to prepare the order.
The customer can also choose between in-store or drive-thru pick-up, but that person isn’t required to make that decision until arriving at Taco Bell and seeing how long the lines are. If using the drive-thru, guests stop at the call box to let workers know they’re there to pick up their order, and then Taco Bell employees are expected to have the food ready at the pick-up window.
Though Taco Bell recognizes that its workers may initially face difficulty keeping up with the new batch of orders, the company also believes that its new system will speed up service all around because consumers no longer will be sitting at the call box ordering, and workers can stay productive.