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Taco Bell experiments with mobile ordering, payments for your next run to the border

Jared Newman | Feb. 17, 2014
Finally, a way to get Gorditas while keeping social interaction to a minimum.

taco bell

You know how complicated Taco Bell can get. You're at the drive-thru intercom, trying to order a dozen Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos with no sour cream and six Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos with sour cream, while also pleading with the hapless "team member" to fabricate eight Nacho Cheese Chalupas, despite their unexplained--and utterly criminal--disappearance from the official menu a few years ago. It's a game of telephone that doesn't end well; best-case scenario, you don't end up with all the hot sauce packets you wanted.

Fortunately, Taco Bell plans to rescue us from our own taco hell with mobile ordering, which will roll out nationwide later this year according to Nation's Restaurant News. A "controlled beta test" already happened near the company's Irvine, Calif., headquarters, and "select customers" will be able to participate soon.

Taco Bell is hardly the first restaurant to give mobile ordering a try. Chipotle--the Apple to Taco Bell's Microsoft, perhaps--started letting customers order by smartphone in 2009, followed by Five Guys in 2010 and Jersey Mike's last year. Potbelly doesn't have an app, but lets people order through its website, which works on smartphones. And of course, big pizza chains have been doing it for years (which makes the most sense because you need to order pizzas well in advance of pickup).

But the major fast food franchises have been slower on the uptake. McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's are still just testing mobile payments. Kentucky Fried Chicken, owned by the same parent company as Taco Bell, is also testing the idea, but only in the United Kingdom.

While the college versions of ourselves savor the idea of initiating a Taco Bell ordering spree that keeps social interaction to a minimum, you won't be spared from having to actually visit your nearest potentially dingy Taco Bell location. And that's where mobile ordering starts to lose its luster. We still need the TacoCopter after all.



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