Consumers are using a mobile app more often than just a few months ago to order restaurant food, according to new survey data from Bluedot and research firm SeeLevel HX.
The survey, based on responses from 1,501 U.S. adults between June 23 and July 2, 2020, found that 50 percent of consumers are using restaurant mobile apps “more often or much more often” than they were before the pandemic, up from 42 percent in April. Meanwhile, 64 percent of respondents said they have downloaded at least one or more new apps to purchase restaurant food, up from 51 percent in April.
The spike makes sense, given the rise in off-premises restaurant formats, the push for so-called “contactless” ordering and payments platforms, and widespread consumer concerns around safety and social distancing.
The report also examines the popularity of off-premises formats among consumers. The drive-thru is far and away the most popular. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they have visited the drive-thru “the same amount or more often than usual” compared to 43 percent in April. Respondents also named drive-thru the “safest” of the to-go formats, which also include curbside pickup and in-store pickup.
Responses around both mobile app usage and drive-thru visits are in line with developments by restaurants over the last few months. Chains like Chipotle and Shake Shack are reformatting many of their stores to include drive-thru lanes. In many cases, those lanes are dedicated to customers ordering via the restaurants’ mobile apps.
In many cases, these drive-thrus are one of the main reasons QSRs have fared much better in terms of sales so far during the pandemic.
All that said, the Bluedot and SeeLevel HX report also suggests that drive-thru lines are still frustratingly slow. Of the consumers surveyed, 81 percent said waiting more than 10 minutes in the drive-thru is too long. If you’ve been to a drive-thru recently, you don’t need data to tell you wait times are stretching far beyond that number oftentimes.
Cutting down wait time in the drive-thru is an old story that pre-dates the pandemic. Making that particular restaurant format more efficient will continue to be a priority for QSRs going forward.