The ability to use mobile to order and pay for food and drink services is now top-of-mind for the biggest brands in the world. Mobile payments are expected to triple by the end of 2016, with one in every five smartphones leveraging the technology. Early adopters of mobile order and pay programs have reaped monetary benefits of offering the feature through their apps. Now, the rest of the food and drink industry is catching on—and attempting to catch up.

A gap exists between companies who approach building the feature just to compete and those who build it to improve their customers’ experiences. The latter companies see significantly better results, including higher revenue, improved customer satisfaction, and ultimately, an improved in-store experience for both customers and employees.

But what takes a mobile ordering and payment process from good to great? There are standard best practices all food and drink companies should follow to start. To help set you off on the right track, we analyzed mobile order and pay across six of the most popular food and drink apps. We identified first-hand what works and what can be improved.

mobile order and pay apps

To complete our research, we leveraged our Public Reviews tool to learn what real customers are saying about each app. We also leveraged Applause’s sentiment index of restaurant apps, and had Apptentive team members use the apps. This post covers what companies should think about before they build a mobile order and pay solution. If you’ve already have the functionality, we also cover what you can do to improve your experience.

Best practices

Some food and drink companies offering mobile ordering and payment solutions are light years ahead of their competition. Here’s what makes their programs a delight to use, along with successfully impacting their bottom lines:

Focus on improving the in-store experience

Food and drink companies are unique in that they must have a physical presence first; mobile is usually a secondary channel for engaging with customers. The best food and drink apps help make the in-store experience more enjoyable for the customer.

Through our research, we found apps who start with this goal fare better in the long run. When mobile order and pay can make the in-store experience faster, easier, and more enjoyable, both the customers and the in-store employees win. Notably, Starbucks does this better than anyone.

Starbucks mobile order and pay

Snapshot from our Starbucks mobile order and pay experience.Starbucks has built a company relentlessly focused on the customer. Through seamlessly integrating the digital experience and the retail experience, Starbucks has built an end-to-end consumer digital platform. Their mobile experience boosts customer satisfaction and drives an insane amount of revenue.

Starbucks mobile order and pay

Snapshot from our Starbucks mobile order and pay experience.“Over ten percent of all orders at our busiest stores are made through mobile order and pay,” said Adam Brotman, Starbucks’ Chief Digital Officer, in their Q2 2016 earnings call. “Drilling into that further, for those 300 busiest stores, mobile ordering approaches 20 percent during peak hours.” In other words, Starbucks’ use of the mobile ordering system is the gold standard for all other food and drink companies looking to leverage mobile to improve the in-store experience, and crush revenue goals.

Meet high customer expectations high across all channels

Meeting high customer expectations across all channels helps food and drink companies reach a broader set of customers. Because mobile is one of the newer channels customers use to interact with their favorite brands, ensuring high customer expectations will be met across mobile experiences is imperative to success.

Jimmy John’s is a great example of a company where the expectation can be kept the same throughout their ordering process across all channels. Because the brand is known for its crazy-fast ordering and delivery, we expected their mobile order and payment experience to mirror this. Ordering in-app should be easy, without sacrificing quality and speed of delivery. After all was said and done, we were not disappointed!

Ordering in the Jimmy John

Ordering in the Jimmy John’s app.The time we ordered and the time the food was delivered was the same every time we used their in-app mobile order and pay experience (about 15 minutes) as it was with any other channel (e.g. calling in an order, waiting in-store for an order, etc.). The quality of the food was also the same, making Jimmy John’s a top contender for keeping our mobile order and pay expectations high.

Ease of use and sleek design

The beauty of mobile payments is condensing the process of keeping tangible items (like wallets, loyalty cards, etc.) all in once place. Paying through a mobile device should be easier than pulling out a credit card to pay in-store. However, due to design constraints and usability issues, that’s not always the case.

But then, some experiences surprise you. Domino’s has gone further in flexible usability and beautiful app design than the majority of other companies. They’ve started exploring multiple ways to take their mobile ordering to a whole new level.

Dominos app

A peek into Domino’s in-app mobile order and pay process.Between their zero-click app that allows customers to order and pay for their meal just by launching the app (no joke!) to their order from anywhere initiative. More than 50% of their sales now come from digital avenues.


Domino’s Zero-Click Ordering.Domino’s success proves that if you build beautiful mobile experiences people truly enjoy using, the revenue will follow; even though it may take significant effort to launch and maintain over time.

Speed up the end goal (i.e. feed your hungry customers)

The best piece of the mobile order and pay process comes down to the end goal: consumption. The faster your app can deliver orders to hungry customers, the more successful it will be over time.

Our favorite example of a timely mobile order and pay experience comes from Chick-fil-A. Speeding up the order is at the heart of their app. According to a Chick-fil-A survey, 82% of millennial parents say they would do almost anything to avoid long lines at quick-service restaurants when they are with their children. Almost half of them (48%) said they would rather not eat at all than stand in a line. From their survey research, they created a beautiful app that allows customers to order and pay, track their order’s progress, and bypass the line for in-store pickup.


Screenshots from our Chick-fil-A ordering experience.A standout in the Chick-fil-A app was their onboarding process for first-time customers. The onboarding and instructions for the app were incredibly clear and concise. For example, each time they asked you for location permissions or your phone number, they explained what they would be used for and the implication it had on your phone. The app easily found the restaurant closest to us, and it was easy to customize our order.

Additionally, customers can set up an order in advance and click when you arrive at the restaurant, so the food is fresh upon pickup. The app also gives great instructions of what to look for when you actually get to Chick-Fil-A. When we walked into the restaurant and waited under the pick-up sign, we were greeted by name and given our order in under a minute. Super impressive!

Areas for improvement

Although every app we experienced had positive points, there are always areas for improvement. Two major themes stood out around what food and drink companies can improve:

Don’t treat mobile as a bubble

Thinking about the mobile order and pay experience as a separate entity to your existing experience is a mistake. Thinking about “mobile as a bubble” sets your customers up for failure and takes a toll on your in-store experience.

We are huge fans of Chipotle, but unfortunately, not their current mobile order and pay experience. There are gaps between the in-store ordering and mobile ordering process. For example, the pickup window for an order placed through the app could be hours after the order was placed. That doesn’t help customers get their meals quickly or efficiently. Additionally, Chipotle’s skip the line feature doesn’t work well when there are only 1-2 registers (standard in most Chipotle stores).

The biggest faux pas of the Chipotle’s experience is that it doesn’t connect with their loyalty program, Chiptopia. A big complaint across Chipotle’s app store reviews is the lack of integration of their rewards program. Here’s what a quick Public Reviews search for “Chiptopia” returned:

Apptentive Public Reviews results for "Chiptopia"

Of course, it’s important to look at the numbers to really assess how their app is doing. According to an earnings report from October 2015, Chipotle’s digital sales made up 5% of their total sales and rose 40% in the year prior. We can only imagine what their mobile revenue would bring in if they spent more time improving their mobile experiences. If companies treat mobile as an experience separate from the one they already offer, big opportunities for delivering seamless ordering will be missed.

Trouble with the “payment” part of mobile order and pay

Making the “payment” part of mobile order and pay easy is, arguably, the most important part of the process. Without this piece, your whole process is broken.

The Taco Bell app offers a ton of positives. It’s well-designed, easy to use, boasts an in-depth FAQ page, shares nutritional facts, offers a skip the line function, and many other great benefits customers have come to expect. However, payment is a major crux in making the mobile ordering experience work. Taco Bell hasn’t quite figured it out just yet.


The Taco Bell app is sleek, overall.The Taco Bell app crashes when you try to use their card capture (picture) feature. Instead, you have to manually enter your card number every time. After a quick search in Public Reviews, it looks like we weren’t the only ones experiencing the payment problem:

Apptentive Public Reviews results for Taco Bell

Until they solve their payment issue, they’re losing potential revenue and creating customer frustration. Once they crack the code around this piece, their app will quickly move into our “best practices” category.

Now’s the time to improve your mobile ordering and payment process

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what makes an in-app mobile ordering and payment process successful, we want to help you improve. Apptentive has worked with some of the biggest names in food and drink to help roll out mobile ordering and payment solutions within their apps. Our product and team members work with the frontrunners in the food and drink industry. Through our experience, we have formulated best practices around how to pilot test mobile order and pay. We’ve identified when to ask the right questions, how to select the right types of questions to ask, and how to effectively implement feedback once it’s given.

Apptentive even helped one customer launch their mobile ordering and payment feature a quarter early, through access to real-time data and the ability to ask the right questions quickly. Here’s how it happened:

The customer, a global coffee company, decided to leverage Apptentive as they launched one of their newest programs, Mobile Order and Pay. They developed the feature to allow customers to avoid the line by ordering ahead for their drinks with the mobile app. Due to the complex nature of rolling out such a feature, they chose to pilot Mobile Order and Pay in Portland.

In order to identify customer problems with Mobile Order and Pay quickly, the company used multiple testing techniques. They sent team members to their retail locations to ask customers about their Mobile Order and Pay experience in person. While powerful, the strategy didn’t scale and wasn’t sustainable for an extended period of time. The company used Apptentive’s in-app Surveys to target customers who had used Mobile Order and Pay at least twice.

Through the Survey, the company asked early adopters questions about their experience ordering, points of friction, and their perception of the brand as a result of the new Mobile Order and Pay functionality. Survey questions included “Did you have any issues ordering with the app? If yes, where did you experience the problem?” and “Any additional feedback you’d like to share with us?“ Within days of launch, they received over 500 responses with incredible insights to help them fix existing bugs and work out the kinks before launching globally.

Through Apptentive Surveys, the company was able to collect in-app feedback at scale. They were able to deliver a large quantity of qualitative information to their entire mobile team. The company was able to establish a baseline level of frustration and monitor sentiment as the app improved. This consistent benchmark gave their team confidence when they expanded the beta to Seattle and New York. The team successfully launched in 7,400 stores across the United States.

When the company released Mobile Order and Pay in the UK (the first city outside of the U.S.), they received 765 survey responses about the feature in just 12 hours. They have since gathered feedback from over 6,000 additional customers on the Mobile Order and Pay experience. Quick access to feedback from actual customers helped the team move incredibly fast. In fact, the team executed their global launch—this revenue driving launch—a quarter early!

Looking ahead

Even though many companies have added mobile order and pay to their product roadmaps, a gap exists. Some companies approach building the feature just to compete, and some build it to improve their customers’ experiences. We hope this post helps you build the best mobile ordering and payment experience possible, as well as a cautionary tale of issues to avoid.

Best of luck in the world of mobile order and pay. If you have questions or if we can help in any way, leave your thoughts in the comments below!