Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s Use Geofencing to Speed Up Mobile Ordering

Both restaurants are tracking mobile customers, and Chick-fil-A is adding a wait-time estimator for orders.

May 31, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A are launching app features that will track customers who order via mobile, reports Business Insider. The tracking, or geofencing, is so that workers can start making a customer’s order when they get closer to the restaurant.

Chick-fil-A announced earlier this month that it’s enhancing the app to make ordering via mobile “easy and convenient.” The app will also show customers an estimate of how long their order will take if it’s placed for carryout, curbside or dine-in. The wait times are predicted based on a variety of factors like order complexity and size.

“By timing a customer’s arrival with their order, we can ensure they’re getting a meal that is both fresh and served quickly,” said Morgan Anderer, senior project lead on the customer digital experience team at Chick-fil-A. “We don’t believe our customers should have to compromise, and these new features truly balance what our restaurants do best: exceptional quality and efficient service.”

The QSR tested geofencing and estimated wait times at 100 restaurants, and customers reduced their wait time between one and two minutes. Estimated wait times were accurate more than 90% of the time on average.

McDonald’s added geofencing to its app in March, alerting a restaurant when the mobile customer is three minutes away.

"Using existing location data, it allows our crew to start assembling a customer's order prior to their arrival at the restaurant, ultimately delivering hot, fresh food when customers arrive to pick up their order," CFO Ian Borden said at the fast-food giant's earnings call last month.

Borden said that digital sales—orders made through the McDonald's app, at an order kiosk in a restaurant or via a delivery service—made up around 40% of all sales in the first quarter of 2023, reports Insider.

"While it's still early days deploying this new digital enhancement, initial results are already pointing to improved service times and elevated customer satisfaction scores," Borden told investors.

QSRs are looking for ways to speed up the ordering process and remove friction from the transaction. McDonald’s is testing a new drive-thru innovation at a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, where customers who order ahead through the app can use a designated lane and receive their food and drinks via a conveyor. Chick-fil-A has also tested an express drive-thru lane exclusively for mobile orders.

Read how convenience retailers like Jiffy Trip and EG Group are managing the drive-thru experience in “Drive-Thru Advantage” in the September 2022 issue of NACS Magazine.