Mobile Order Ahead

Mobile Order To Go — Tender, Juicy, Customized?

Order before! Restaurants are tapping into the power of mobile technology to bring consumers customized order-ahead experiences that are revolutionizing the industry. The inaugural edition of the PYMNTS Mobile Order-Ahead Tracker™, powered by LevelUp, digs into this explosive new trend, along with rankings of the top apps. Find that, and an interview with Kramer Johnson, head of Digital Experience for Chick-fil-A, whose app boasts more than two million monthly users, in this brand new Tracker.

These days, consumers know what they want — and they expect transactions and experiences with merchants of all kinds to cater to their preferences.

According to recent industry research, consumers increasingly want and expect companies to offer transactions and experiences that are customized to their liking. Seventy-four percent of customers reported feeling frustrated when a website does not allow them to control or customize transactions, and more than three-quarters of consumers have chosen or paid more for a brand that offers personalized experiences that individual consumers can control.

Increasingly, merchants are turning to mobile apps to reach and connect with consumers and offer personalized or controllable experiences. Fast-casual restaurants and other dining destinations especially are turning to mobile technology in order to give consumers more control over how they order and pay for their food.

In a recent interview, Kramer Johnson, head of Digital Experience for chicken chain Chick-fil-A, told PYMNTS that his team built its own mobile order-ahead app designed to do just that.

The app, which debuted in 2016 and is used by more than 2 million users per month, aims to give customers more control over their dining experience. The app allows diners to customize or change almost any part of their meal or experience to their liking — from ordering specific sandwiches to choosing where and when their food will be prepared and picked up.

“The mobile app is the remote control for the Chick-fil-A experience, and it’s really designed to give consumers control over every aspect of a transaction,” Johnson said. “You can order ahead and pay with it, you can earn rewards or treats with it, you can customize your own order exactly how you want it and then save that order so you can re-order anything with just a couple of taps.”

Control and Convenience

Most mobile apps are built on the idea of convenience, or giving customers the ability to get what they want, when they want it.

But for Johnson and his team, convenience was only part of the equation when it came to designing a top-notch mobile order-ahead app. He stressed the importance of giving modern consumers increased control over their dining experience.

“A great example of control is being able to customize your meal, and one of the big benefits of the app is that customization,” Johnson explained. “From the number of pickles you want on your sandwich to being able to customize what side you want, it’s a really easy way to see the whole menu, get your Chick-fil-A just the way you like it and do so without a line of people behind you, which I think keeps a lot of people from customizing orders in-store.”

Johnson said that his team has found that giving customers this increased control has benefits not only for Chick-fil-A’s customers, but for the company’s bottom line as well. Customers can ensure they are getting their orders exactly to their specifications, making it more likely that they have positive experiences and come back again soon. Research has also found that customers using mobile order-ahead apps spend more per visit than customers ordering in-store.

“We want to give the customer not just more convenience, but more control through the mobile app,” Johnson said. “We’ve found that being able to order and pay ahead of time really makes the whole experience a lot more convenient and stress-free for customers by giving them much more control over everything.”

Anywhere, Anytime

As more customers use mobile and online solutions not just for ordering lunch or dinner on demand but buying everything from music and movies to home goods, consumer expectation for industries across the board is rising.

Increasingly, Johnson noted, customers expect to be able to pay in-store using the same method they are familiar with using through a mobile app and accessing other online features from a brick-and-mortar location. As a result, he and his team also built the app to give Chick-fil-A customers more control over their experience even when placing an order in-store.

Customers can use the Chick-fil-A mobile app to generate a unique QR code that is linked to their account and displayed on the screen of their smartphone or mobile device. Then, after reaching the register, customers can have a cashier scan that QR code in order to access a customer’s favorite items, pay using stored payment information and receive the same rewards they would receive when ordering online.

As mobile devices become more of a modern staple among consumers, Johnson said, he expects consumer expectations to continue to rise, pushing Chick-fil-A and other restaurants to embrace more connected features for consumers, whether they are placing an order in a restaurant or via a mobile app.

“With any new technology, the goal really is to make any customer’s experience more convenient and personal and give them as much control over an interaction or experience as possible,” Johnson said. “So as customers continue to go in this connected direction, I think intelligent people in the industry are going to move toward things like mobile ordering or even new things that are just getting started, like voice ordering through a personal assistant like the Amazon Alexa.”

As technology from smartphones to personal assistants and beyond continues to bring purchasing power to consumers, it seems that giving customers more control could be a crucial element to rising to the top of the mobile order-ahead food chain.


To download the April edition of the Mobile Order-Ahead Tracker™, powered by LevelUp, click the button below.

About the Tracker

The PYMNTS Mobile Order-Ahead Tracker™, powered by LevelUp, serves as a monthly framework for the space, providing coverage of the most recent news and trends, along with a provider directory highlighting the key players contributing across the segments that comprise the mobile order-ahead ecosystem. 



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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