Getty Images / Andrew Francis Wallace
McDonald's introduction of mobile order-and-pay technology and curbside delivery this year could drastically speed up its customer service, especially at the drive-thru.
Mobile order-and-pay technology allows customers to order and pay for their food with their smartphones.
It will automate one of the most time-consuming parts of visiting McDonald's: dictating an order to an employee and exchanging money.
"The more automated these processes are, the more it frees up staff to focus on service," says Stephen Dutton, consumer foodservice analyst for Euromonitor.
Alongside mobile order-and-pay, curbside delivery will have the added bonus of detracting from the number of cars waiting in the restaurants' drive-thru lanes, Dutton says.
By selecting curbside delivery, customers can skip the drive-thru lane and get their food delivered to them in the restaurant parking lot.
The likely result? Shrinking lines and wait times at the drive-thru — something that the company has been trying to accomplish for years.
Fast service — especially at the drive-thru, where McDonald's gets 70% of its sales — is essential to McDonald's success.
The chain's speed of service has been declining over the last decade, and it's driving some customers away.
McDonald's said this week that it has lost more than 500 million customer visits to competitors since 2012.
The average wait time at a McDonald's drive-thru was 208.16 seconds last year, according to QSR Magazine. That's about 25% slower than the average wait time 10 years ago.
McDonald's is one of the last major fast-food chains to implement mobile order-and-pay technology.
Starbucks launched it years ago and the technology's runaway success has since led to a major problem: bottlenecks of orders that are overwhelming baristas and slowing down service.
McDonald's will likely be immune to this problem when it launches mobile order-and-pay because its customer visits are more spread out across the day, whereas the large majority of Starbucks' orders are generated in the morning, according to Dutton.