The Future of Fast Food Ordering: Will We Still Need Storefronts?

Fast food has always been a fast and convenient option for busy people. But fast food is about to get even faster. 

This summer, McDonald’s undertook an experiment that could change fast food forever: ordering via mobile phone at its 14 outlets in western Sweden. Eight of those locations allowed customers to pick up curbside without waiting in line, while the other six locations flipped the fast food model by putting customers in charge. Customers ordered through their phone, then walked to a fast food restaurant where they could pick up their orders at the counter or directly from an employee waiting curbside with mobile order bags. There was no extra charge for the curbside option.

Fast food restaurants are making food faster and more convenient than ever. Restaurants like Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Chick-fil-A offer mobile apps that allow people to order anything from their menus at any time of day without standing in line, hassling with cash, or swiping a credit card. But fast food chains aren’t just looking to cater to those who want to avoid lines. They’re also looking to cash in on the growing fast food delivery industry. In 2015, fast food delivery was a $10 billion business and is expected to grow 9 percent each year through 2020, according to Technomic. That’s why chains like Taco Bell and KFC are gearing up to offer fast food delivery nationwide.

So what does this mean for fast food restaurants? Will we still need storefronts?

For fast food chains, the answer is yes and no. The goal is to have a mix of experiences: some with traditional storefronts and others that are completely or partially mobile-based.

Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Steve Ells says, “We’re trying to figure out how to do more of our business in which people are not standing in line.” And Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich says, “There is no question that there will be a significant percentage of our restaurants that will be order-and-deliver only.”

So what does this mean for you, the fast food lover?

For one, fast food dining will become even more convenient. You’ll be able to order your food on your phone and have it delivered right to your door. No more waiting in line! But with more convenience comes more fast food ordering. That means fast food restaurants will need to find new ways to keep customers satisfied and coming back not just for fast food, but for all their fast food options.

“They’re going to have the opportunity to order everything they want online or through mobile apps,” says David Palmer, restaurant analyst at UBS Securities. “So the fast food chains need to figure out how to reinvent themselves.”

What will fast food restaurants look like in the future? We’re not sure, but we can’t wait to find out!

If you are a restaurant owner and want to create a mobile-based experience for your customers, you need a restaurant e-commerce platform that can handle everything for you.

With an e-commerce platform, you can focus on fast food, not fast food ordering!