The One Good Reason To Be Tracked By Fast Food Apps

Why McDonald's, Chick-fil-A, and other chains' apps have embraced geofencing.

It would be almost impossible for the average American diner not to notice that fast food chains have quietly been spending a lot of resources on their mobile apps. The sleek interface and rewards points structure are designed to convince us to spend more money more often, which is no surprise. But one new feature has been quietly rolled out to a number of fast food mobile apps, and it's one that might actually improve the quality of the food itself. Get ready to hear a lot more about geofencing.

What is geofencing?

Geofencing is a mobile app function that is often used for marketing purposes. Essentially, it triggers an action within an app when your mobile device enters a certain predetermined area, detected via GPS. For example, if your phone comes within, say, 1,000 feet of a restaurant, that restaurant's app can send you a notification about current menu promotions. This might convince you to stop in and spend a few bucks on lunch.

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How geofencing can improve food quality

The latest use of geofencing goes beyond marketing and directly influences the quality of the food itself. Here's how it works: When you place a fast food order, the employees won't begin assembling your order until GPS determines you're within a certain radius of the restaurant. Once you're close enough, the kitchen will be notified to begin preparing the food. This way, if you get stuck in traffic on your way over, your burger won't be growing lukewarm and soggy in the bag, and your piping hot fries will stay crisp until you arrive.

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Right now at least three major fast food chains are using geofencing in order to estimate when to put your order together: McDonald's, Chipotle, and Chick-fil-A.

McDonald's began exploring the idea at its tiny test location in Fort Worth, Texas last year, which is only equipped for takeout, delivery, and pickup (no dine-in here). The functionality was added to the McDonald's mobile app just this past March. Chipotle's app has the same capability, and Chick-fil-A is rolling out a geofencing feature nationwide early this summer, reports Business Insider.

Chick-fil-A has noted that this feature has reduced customer wait times by a few minutes, and we all know that the longer fried foods like chicken sandwiches sit, the more exponentially they can suck. So not only would geofencing cut down on any potential wait times, your food at these chains would ideally still be in decent shape by the time you pick it up.

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We all know that fast food apps already have the ability to track our every move, which is certainly a downside of technology's long reach, even if it means the occasional discount. I don't need Ronald McDonald to know whenever I'm walking past the Golden Arches on my commute to work every day. But if we choose to live with these apps in our pocket regardless, we should at least be entitled to higher quality food as a result. 

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