Say goodbye to waiting in the 20-deep drive-thru lane for a greasy $5 hamburger or $8 quinoa salad.
The way consumers order fast food will change dramatically over the next 10 years, as voice technology gets more advanced and major restaurant chains develop sophisticated apps. “Fifteen months ago, we tested voice ordering with Google – in the coming years it will get even bigger,” Panera Bread CEO Blaine Hurst tells Yahoo Finance.
Leading up to its voice ordering capabilities, Panera launched mobile ordering via its app several years ago and is now pushing into delivery. The company has also installed tablets in many of its restaurants where customers can walk in and place an order without waiting to interact with a cashier.
Panera’s sales from digital devices represent an impressive 33% of its business – and that’s without the availability of voice ordering in all its 2,100 locations.
Others in fast food are also all in on using tech to help get orders out the door quicker and maximize profits from each visit.
The fast-food tech race
Wendy’s (WEN) is testing self-ordering kiosks in more than 300 locations. CEO Todd Penegor told me in September the company is thinking about debuting fast pass drive-thru lanes. Customers would order via their mobile device, drive up to the window to pick up their order and be off.
Earlier this year, Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN) created a fast pass lane at a test store in its home market of Quincey, Mass. If the customer is a member of Dunkin’s rewards plan and places an order digitally, they can simply drive up to a special lane and get their order quickly.
Meanwhile, McDonald’s (MCD) is adding self-ordering kiosks in 1,000 U.S. stores every quarter for the next nine quarters. The kiosks afford customers the luxury of better personalizing their orders when inside the store. The Golden Arches began testing mobile ordering in late 2017 and has continued to expand it to more stores this year.
These traditional fast-food spots with drive-thus are chasing the tech prowess of a delivery company like Domino’s Pizza (DPZ). The pizza giant launched voice ordering on Amazon’s Alexa in 2017. It is seen as a pioneer in digital ordering – it went live with mobile ordering way back in 2015. Today, sales from digital orders represent upwards of 50% of the chain’s sales.
Former CEO Domino’s CEO Patrick Doyle told me earlier this year it’s now thinking of a world where pizza is delivered by self-driving cars.
Who thought ordering a 1,000-calorie meal could be so much fun?
Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi