Do Mobile Ordering Options Actually Speed Up Fast Food Wait Times?

In a world that's constantly on the go, we're all looking for ways to speed up the process of ordering and receiving our food. As a result, many restaurants have expanded to include mobile ordering alongside drive-thru, delivery, and sit-down options –- but does ordering through an app on your phone help you get your food any sooner?

To be clear, ordering your Chicken McNuggets through the McDonald's mobile app doesn't help your nuggets cook any faster or get bagged any sooner. However, ordering from the car, work, or home decreases the time it seems like you're waiting. In this way, per Restaurant Dive, mobile orders are up to 2.4 times faster than any other ordering method. Of course, when restaurants add geofencing (essentially location tracking) and pickup-time options to the mix, they can more accurately time when to get orders started and when to have them bagged and ready.

Mobile orders could very well cut back wait times for all customers

Don't get us wrong, using mobile customers' locations to prioritize their orders is fascinating. Even more interesting, though, is that you and your friends ordering through a fast food chain's app to decrease wait time helps everyone else's wait time, too.

In 2023 alone, drive-thru wait times decreased by nearly 30 seconds, largely due to mobile ordering. If you think about it, ordering ahead (and likely paying through the app) means you can skip those steps when you get to the drive-thru window or counter. All you have to do is pick up your order, so you're not only saving yourself time but also saving time for everyone in line behind you. With fewer people going through all the steps of ordering, paying, and picking up their orders all at the same window or counter, everyone can run through the process much quicker.