McDonald’s online ordering has rough edges

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sorry, McDonald’s: I am not — yet — lovin’ it.

But I could be.

One of the best things that Subway has done recently has been online ordering, on the web and, especially, through their smartphone app. As you know, the fact that you can customize a Subway sandwich is the best thing about the meal, and the worst thing about the ordering process, especially at busy times of day when there’s a long line.

But with the Subway app, you can completely customize your sub, with all the same choices offered by the restaurant. You can do this at your leisure, sitting at your desk at work, or on your couch at home, or what have you. You customize your sub, order a drink and chips if desired, and then pay online.

When you get to the restaurant, you skip to the front of the line, going directly to the cash register. Often, I can leave for the restaurant right after placing my order and the sandwich will be done by the time I get there, although this isn’t guaranteed. You pick up your sandwich and a cup for your drink, grab a bag of chips and fill your drink at the drink station. Boom! In and out without standing in that long line.

So when McDonald’s promoted that they now have online ordering through their smartphone app, I figured I would give it a try.

It has potential, but the company’s not quite there yet. The app is clunky and not intuitive. I easily found a good dollar-off deal on a premium burger, and it offered to let me start an order with that burger. Fine so far. But the process for adding side items to your order isn’t well explained or obvious. I finally did a search for “fries” and only one option popped up — medium. I tried to order a Coke Zero, but my only options seemed to be Coke or Diet Coke. Again, there might have been something I was missing, but if that’s the case it just goes back to the argument about the app being a little clunky and counter-intuitive.

As with the Subway app, you pay for your order online and then head for the restaurant. Unlike the Subway app, they don’t start working on your order until you get to the restaurant. Once you open the app while at the restaurant, your GPS tells the app that you’ve arrived and signals the restaurant to start making your order. The app says you can pick up your order in several different ways, and gives you a code to use when pulling up to the drive-through, but didn’t make it clear that the preferred way is to pull around to some specially-marked parking spaces reserved for online order pickup. So I sat in the drive-through line for a number of minutes for no reason. When I finally got to the speaker, they told me where I needed to go.

I parked in the parking place. Apparently, our local McDonald’s is still a little new to the process as well. While they were still getting my order ready, one of the employees came out and asked me whether or not I’d already paid for it. I told her I had, and when my order did arrive the receipt clearly showed this, including the last four digits of my debit card.

The woman who delivered my order looked like she might have been a manager, and she asked me if I’d actually saved any time by using the online ordering. I told her a little of what happened but said I was going to try again some time, now that I know where to park, and see if it works more smoothly the second time around.

McDonald’s has a lot of resources at its disposal, and has been feeling some competitive pressure in recent years, so I have no doubt that they’ll work the kinks out sooner, rather than later.

—John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: