McDonald’s tests mobile ordering before national rollout

In this Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, file photo, McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook demonstrates an order kiosk, with cashier Esmirna DeLeon, during a presentation at a McDonald's restaurant in New York's Tribeca neighborhood. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald’s has started testing mobile order-and-pay after acknowledging the ordering process in its restaurants can be “stressful.”

The company says it will gather feedback from the test before launching the option nationally toward the end of the year. It says mobile order-and-pay is now available at 29 stores in Monterey and Salinas, California, and will expand to 51 more locations in Spokane, Washington, next week.

The rollout comes as customers increasingly seek out convenience through options like online ordering or delivery. McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook has noted the initial stages of visiting can be “stressful,” and the chain is making changes to improve the overall customer experience. That includes introducing ordering kiosks, which McDonald’s says can help ease lines at the counter and improve the accuracy of orders – another frustration for customers. Easterbrook has also talked about the potential of delivery.

With its mobile order-and-pay option, McDonald’s says customers place an order on its app then go to a restaurant and “check in” to select how they want to get their food. That could be at the counter, in the drive-thru, or with curbside delivery, where an employee brings out orders to a designated space. Orders are prepared once customers check in at the restaurant.

Starbucks has already found success using its mobile app and loyalty program to encourage people to visit more often and spend more when they do. The chain has also said its mobile order-and-pay option was so popular that it caused congestion at pick-up counters last year, leading some customers who walked into stores to leave without buying anything. Starbucks said it is working on fixing those issues.

It’s not clear whether McDonald’s will be able to get the same level of usage for its mobile app and order-and-pay option. Since coffee tends to be more of a daily habit, for instance, people may be more willing to download an app for it on their phones.

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