It may be the only Dunkin’ Donuts in Springfield, Mo., but that’s not this shop’s only claim to fame. This new location, open only for about two years, is number one in the nation for On-the-Go mobile ordering; more customers use the app here than at any site in the U.S. The reason for the high app usage? Franchisee Cory Roebuck is blunt: “I hate to admit it, but we may not be the quickest store and so there are lines. Guests avoid lines by using the app.”
Customers can order their coffee and a donut, pay in advance with a swipe of their finger, and then skip the in-store line to pick up their favorite menu items. For the Springfield store, two percent of orders come through the app. That’s not an extraordinary number, but it indicates an important trend: smartphones are transforming coffee shops as we know them, offering a new level of speed and convenience for busy customers.
Orders placed via smartphone will make up more than 10 percent of all quick-service restaurant sales by 2020, projects Business Insider Intelligence. At that point, mobile ordering is expected to be a $38 billion industry. And QSRs are jumping on board. McDonald’s is adding a mobile ordering platform later this year. Pizza chains Domino’s, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut already up and running; Starbucks also has already launched its mobile order and pay platform.
“Mobile ordering is game-changing in our industry,” says Tim Cloe, a long-time Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee in Orlando, Fla., who says that on-the-go ordering drives membership to the DD Perks Rewards loyalty program and attracts customers who may not have the time to order through traditional methods. “Many brands have not yet embraced it, but Dunkin’ has jumped in with a strong product,” says Cloe, who has more than 20 Dunkin’ Donuts’ stores in the southeast.
When franchisee Matt Cobo opened his new Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant in Walnut Creek, Calif. last June, lines began stretching out the door. But, Cobo says he delayed offering On-the-Go ordering for most of the first month until operations were up and running. Once mobile ordering was offered, he says, customers pulled out their phones, loaded the app and placed their order. Word spread quickly – often, a cashier would tell the guests about the app while other times, it was straight word of mouth: one customer would ask the other how they were getting their beverage so quickly.
“People just had to use it once to fall in love with it,” says Cobo, who is committed to opening 12 stores throughout the Bay Area. “In this day and age, people always in a hurry, no matter what time of day or what day of week, and On-the-Go serves them well. It’s exponentially faster.”
As with many new technologies, mobile order-and-pay programs inevitably have growing pains. Starbuck’s was jolted by too much online traffic when it launched its mobile app, causing congestion, longer lines and bottlenecks, which resulted in plenty of angry social media posts. So far, customers are finding Dunkin’s On-the-Go app simple and seamless – the order is placed, an alert beeps and an employee turns off the signal to acknowledge the order has been received. The item is displayed on the visual display unit – coffee, black – and two minutes later the customer can pick up in a designated area. If there is a complaint, Orlando franchisee Sonia Lemos says it has to do with the products that are available through the app. Not everything in the donut case is offered, nor can you make bulk orders for 10 boxes of Joe or 20 dozen donuts. And, technology being what it is, the system can fail or be subject to technical difficulties. But most glitches happen when the food is not ready or customers have to wait too long, says Paul Soaref, operations manager for a chain of stores in South Carolina operated by franchisee Moshe Aroch.
Many franchisees contacted by Independent Joe said On-the-Go has helped improve ordering accuracy by eliminating back-and-forth conversation. “There’s no more communication stumbles, like a guest ordering a caramel swirl and instead getting coconut cream,” says Roebuck. The app keeps lines down during peak hours and often creates a ripple effect of downloads.
“Guests that see others grabbing a beverage and walking out without a cash or credit transaction want to know, ‘What is that person doing and how can I do that? Why have I been waiting six minutes in line when they just walk in and pick up their drink?’ It’s even faster than the drive-through,” says Lemos. What’s more, it also creates a more personalized experience, because the customer’s name is on the receipt, so the server can call out, “Maria, here’s your iced coffee. Have a great day!”
Franchisees we spoke with have a list of additions they would like to see offered through the app including: ease of finding allergens; more variety of donuts; the ability to place catering orders; and more promotion of the app itself. As adoption of On-the-Go ordering grows, we may well see store designs emphasizing mobile front and center, creating larger designated pick-up areas.
Other possible developments reflecting the shift to online ordering include delivery services – an instant order of munchkins and a hot coffee at your door. These and more developments surely lie ahead for the mobile-first mentality that is reshaping how so many Americans order and purchase products.
But even as technology reshapes the industry, people will still choose Dunkin’ Donuts because franchisees offer hot, fresh coffee and made-to-order beverages. They don’t have to wait in line and stand at the counter to place their order anymore. On-the-Go ordering provides customers fast access to their beverage and franchisees greater control over the process.