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McDonald's gives mobile ordering a try on the West Coast

McDonald's gives mobile ordering a try on the West Coast
McDonald's customers in Monterey; Salinas; and Spokane, Wash., can try out the burger chain's mobile ordering and payment tech before its nationwide debut. (Matthias Schrader / Associated Press)

McDonald's is testing its mobile order and pay technology in some West Coast cities ahead of its nationwide launch this year.

The burger giant is allowing customers at 29 restaurants across Monterey and Salinas, Calif., to test the service and will let visitors to 51 restaurants in Spokane, Wash., try it out and offer feedback starting Monday. McDonald's plans to roll out the technology to all 14,000 of its U.S. restaurants starting in the last three months of this year.

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Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's Corp. is late to the mobile order and pay game, but Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook said at a recent investor conference that the company wanted to avoid running into problems that plagued some other big chains. Starbucks, for example, found that the feature was more popular than expected, leading to long lines that hurt sales.

McDonald's order and pay service, through its existing app, will use geofencing technology that will alert a restaurant when a customer has arrived. The customer then gets a pop-up on his or her phone to indicate whether he or she will pick up the food through the drive-through or at curbside check-in spaces. This enables McDonald's to ensure the food is freshly prepared but also lets customers visit any McDonald's to pick up their order.

The world's largest burger chain already has unveiled mobile order and pay service in some other countries, such as Japan, where the average check size when a customer uses the app is 35% higher. Customers who use such technology to order food tend to spend more because they can save custom orders, and they also tend to visit more often.

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