Restaurants Putting the "Fast" Back into Fast Food as Brands Adopt Digital-Only Stores With App Ordering Because of the Pandemic

McDonald’s ice cream machine is still broken though.

While we are all excited about the potential of the Pfizer vaccine to treat COVID-19, the impact of the pandemic will be felt in the restaurant industry for years to come.

Coronavirus has damaged the bottom line of local restaurants as they have tried to keep their doors open by offering customers take out and home delivery via Door Dash and other competitors.

McDonald’s and other fast food brands have been impacted as well by lockdowns, but due to their national scale, they’ve not felt the sting of decrease sales as much as your local pizza place.

Now it seems brands including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Chipotle are planning for the post-Coronavirus digital future with takeout-only locations.

McDonalds announced in addition to offering a new plant based burger, the McPlant, or as I call it, the McTasteless, they plan to open take-out only locations that will allow for takeout and digital ordering options.

The Golden Arches chief rival Burger King has already announced plans to create new store models that will include more drive-thru lanes, walk-up ordering, pick-up, digital ordering, and smaller dining rooms.

Taco Bell announced smaller size store models that will cut back the dining room seating area with some locations offering a takeout option only.

Chipotle will open “digital-only” locations with no dining rooms that only allows customers to pick-up or order delivery via their app.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped to speed up the restaurant industry’s adoption of digital technology at store locations. However, app ordering and home delivery was where fast food was heading pandemic or not.

It saves restaurants time and money by having customers order on an app as they can build smaller locations and hire fewer staff members.

Requiring customers to order on an app also provides them data about how their customers consume their products. This data can be valuable as it allows the restaurant to see which menu items are popular with customers and which items stores should consider dropping from their menu.  

Plus, it provides them with information on the most popular times of day for customers to order using the app and which locations are more popular than others.

While some of the above data discussed is information they probably have been able to obtain before apps, having all this information and more (has anyone read the terms of service on these apps?) on a digital app makes it much easier for them to market to their customers.

Look for more variety on the menu at your local McDonald’s as they’ll be able to customize their locations more based on the area where the store is located.

What is ironic about all this new and exciting restaurant technology is McDonald’s ice cream machine is still broken.  


I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted a column. Life has been crazy! I mean, it’s 2020; of course, life has been crazy. Look for more articles and podcast news here. Thanks for reading and listening!


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