Following in the footsteps of Starbucks and Chipotle, fast food stalwart McDonald’s plans to “flip the marketing switch” on mobile ordering. The brand cited its success with delivery service UberEATS as its main motivator, although the desire to remain relevant was likely close behind.

Once a novelty, mobile ordering is becoming mainstream. More than half of brands with iOS apps in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Restaurants let customers order on their mobile devices and pick up their food in physical stores. Additionally, 15% offer mobile delivery, either fulfilling the orders themselves or through a third-party courier.

Panera Bread

The course of mobile ordering doesn’t always run smooth, as early adopters discovered to their detriment. During Chipotle’s initial bout with the service, customers who ordered online sometimes had to wait as long as half an hour to get their burritos. And at Starbucks, mobile ordering actually caused sales to decline as long lines of customers waiting to pick up their lattes deterred other potential coffee drinkers.

However, both brands have taken steps to address these problems. The coffee chain has since shifted to a new system that lets staff track how long it takes to fill orders and plan staffing around that data. Chipotle also changed its fulfillment system, decreasing wait times by half, according to the company.


The rapid increase of mobile ordering adoption suggests that restaurants are catching up to the retail and hospitality categories, in terms of both adoption and innovation. Fast casual restaurants in particular have rushed to adopt mobile ordering, with 85% of brand iOS apps offering order for pickup, while quick-serve chains like McDonald’s have lagged behind.

However, the fast food giant seems to be catching up. According to McDonald’s, 30 million people have downloaded its mobile app, which has nine million monthly active users. By the end of the year, all US customers will be able to use mobile order and pay, putting the brand in step with competitors when it comes to digital.

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