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Taco Bell to take orders via smartphone

12:01 PM, Feb 15, 2014   |    comments
A woman pushes a stroller past a Taco Bell restaurant in Redondo Beach, California.
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Taco Bell is preparing to launch its own mobile ordering app for smartphones later this year. The fast food chain started developing the app two and a half years ago and is now beta testing it at five Orange County locations, according to Nation's Restaurant News.

The Irvine, Calif.-based chain believe its primary demographic, younger Millennials, will welcome the new technology to their smartphone-driven lives. Millennials are generally considered to cover those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.

"Mobile is the biggest shift in QSR since the drive thru," mobile lead Jeff Jenkins told Nation's Restaurant News. "If you can get 10 million people to download your app, you're putting a portal to Taco Bell in 10 million pockets."

Instead of turning to an existing mobile ordering solution such as GrubHub, Taco Bell chose to develop its own system, tailored to its marketing theme, "Live Más."

"Living Más is all about doing things differently," Jenkins said. "One brand will be extraordinary, while everyone else is ordinary. We asked, 'How do we become extraordinary?'"

Upon opening the app, guests are greeted with a message that is tailored to the time of day. It then presents the menu and immediately allows users to find the Taco Bell closest to them. Pricing, hours and directions appear for the specific location chosen.

While the user is making an order, the app suggests "smart upsell" opportunities for adding a drink or dessert to their order. The users' favorite orders may be customized and saved for later.

Taco Bell's system relies on a GPS locator to track when the user is near and alert the kitchen to ensure a hot and ready meal. The guest may choose to pick up his or her meal in-store or from the drive thru once they arrive at the location.

Although employees will be facing a new challenge, especially during peak hours, Jenkins believes mobile ordering will help eliminate some of the drag caused by consumers with "menu board anxiety," as well as improving the accuracy of orders.

Taco Bell's chief information officer Greg Fancher told Nation's Restaurant News that mobile is their prime focus at the moment, but their preparing to create similar systems for tablets and desktop devices.

Other quick-service food chains, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, which have had mobile ordering in place for years, have proven consumer acceptance and success of their ordering apps. Last week, Chipotle announced their plan to invest $10 million to further develop its mobile platform.

McDonald's and Chick-fil-A are reportedly experimenting with mobile ordering as well.

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