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Mobile App Review: Fast Food Apps
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Mobile App Review: Fast Food Apps - Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Fast Food Apps

Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Fast Food Apps

There are people out there whose acts are so together that they never have to dash into a fast food joint and grab a big bag of greasy, fast, filling, inexpensive deliciousness. Others, realizing the fast food life is likely the shorter life, merely opt to make better choices. And more power to them all, but we’re here today for people who appreciate American fast food, with all its glory and shame. We’re not here to judge; we’re just here to help you get the most out of your experience. Many of the big chains are regional, making it necessary to limit our review to restaurants with meaningful presences in the westernmost United States.

For the longest time, fast food chains offered woeful, embarrassing apps. Because some national chains were so slow to roll out apps, independent franchises often released their own, but even those were little more than listings of business hours and locations. The national apps lacked what we now think of as bare minimums for consumer value: the chance at free or discounted food, geolocation-enabled store finding, and the ability to pay from within the app or at least through the app with a scannable code.

Just about everything else is not only extraneous; it’s unwanted and useless. Nobody older than six wants to play a taco-themed game in order to earn points toward some food prize, or watch short videos about where the food comes from. Nutritional information can be handy, but none of us needs a lecture on making healthy choices. We know we should be making better choices, but the day calls for speed, value, and convenience.

Starbucks was the early leader, tying its app into its already established rewards program. You can pay for your order with the app, order ahead for line-jumping pickup, and earn a free drink or food item for every $62.50 you spend over time. For those of us with regular habits, this can be a free drink every eleven or twelve. Frequent promotions awarding bonus stars often bring this number down. For devotees, the Starbucks app is pretty close to indispensable. Casual sippers may find it only passably useful.

The Dairy Queen app rewards users immediately with a free small Blizzard upon sign-up, then follows with free items every fifth visit. This by itself is worth the small amount of space it takes up on your phone, even if you only drop in once or twice a year.

The McDonald’s app has come a long way, and although it doesn’t yet allow payment by phone or ordering ahead (two features which would make the take-out experience amazing for regulars), it offers about ten varying coupons. Getting discounts or free items can sometimes be glitchy, since most offers come with disclaimers—the exemption on already-discounted items means you can’t use them on Extra Value Meals—but free McCafe drinks with every five McCafe purchases mean those of us with McD’s coffee habits (and there are more than you’d think) earn free stuff at about double the rate their Starbucks-devoted co-workers. The lack of utility this app offers is nearly negated by the number and variety of coupon offers. One major strike against it: when you launch the app, it shuts down whatever you may be listening to, even though the app doesn’t make any sound itself. Unforgivable.

Taco Bell’s app could be a champ if it offered more free stuff. As it is, it’s amazingly useful, allowing payment from the app, schedulable ordering for any time of the day (including whether you’ll pick up in-store or at the drive-through), and $2 off a $10 order, a twenty percent discount that makes a big psychological difference. Huge plus: you can customize your order within the app.

Similarly, Subway’s app lets you order and pay for your sandwich ahead of time with all your customized preferences. Those of us trying to make better choices can feel better about ourselves by ordering from Subway, and anything that makes this an easier choice is commendable, even if the free and discounted stuff is scarce.

Most of national pizza chains have excellent apps, but their mobile web interfaces are so good that we recommend not using the apps at all. Most will save your preferences, too, so you can order whatever you normally order without having to input any new info. Save that space for another burger joint or sandwich shop, if pizza is your craving, and bookmark the good pizza parlors in your mobile browser.


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Mobile App Review: Fast Food Apps - Executive Leadership Articles

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