McDonald's is Testing Mobile Ordering. Here's Why It Probably Won't Work.

Not sure if you’ve heard yet, but McDonald’s is testing an ordering app for smartphones in its Columbus market. While this proves the Golden Arches brand is staying up with the times in order to align with tech-savvy Millennial consumers, I’m weary about its success. The purpose of integrating technologies into a restaurant is to bridge the gap of inconvenience or to personalize, customize a dining experience — it’s there to streamline a process, rather than to add more steps. But here’s how the McDonald’s ordering app will work: Guests pull into one of the two parking spaces in the lot dedicated to a “mobile ordering station,” a thin red pole laying out three steps of how it works. Step 1: After downloading the app, create your oder with the app. Step 2: Scan the QR code at the station. Step 3: Submit the order and, after you’ve synced up your credit card info, pay. Once that’s complete, someone will deliver your order to your car, similar to that of a Sonic Drive-In employee.

Now, imagine your usual McDonald’s experience. Whether you’re in-store or at a drive-thru, chances are you’re multitasking — with your phone. As a Millennial who only eats fast food on very rare occasions (research has shown that the majority of this group is more conscious of what we put into our bodies), I would never use this app. For one, it would take me more time to download it and put in my credit card information considering I’m not a frequent customer. But let’s assume, for the sake of McDonalds’ popularity, that I was a loyal customer of the brand. The last thing I’d want to do is to be waiting around idly in a parked space — both while ordering my food and waiting for it to arrive. Think of how much longer the wait time will seem in a parked car, rather than actually experiencing  something. Allegedly, customers are also allowed to choose to pick up their order inside. Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of the work you just did? You’d probably have to wait inside, anyway.

And what if I order an Oreo McFlurry and they’re out of that kind? Would the app be able to immediately communicate that to me based on unit location? My guess is probably not. Perhaps the system would be more efficient if the QR code step was taken out of the process, allowing customers to order without that extra step of a.) having to be on-site to start the order and b.) potentially making customers get out of their car to properly scan the code. 

As a Millennial, it just seems like too much of a hassle for fast food that’s supposed to be “fast” anyway. Mobile ordering is a tricky system that’s difficult to streamline considering consumer habits are all over the place. As Songza CEO Elias Roman has said about the future of music and technology, “context will dethrone content as king.” I think the same applies to the success of restaurant technology, and especially for mobile ordering and mobile payments.