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Can ordering fast food get even faster? In a busy and increasingly impatient world, standing in line or waiting at the drive-thru may eventually be replaced by text-messaging food orders.
Starting today, 31 Subway franchises in Southern California are rolling out a three-to-four-month pilot program where with just a few finger taps, customers will be able to order menu items like the turkey breast and black forest ham sub.
Here's how it works: Participating Subway restaurants in Los Angeles, San Diego, Bakersfield and Santa Barbara will get text message orders and in less time than it takes Jared to do 20 ab crunches, an automatic confirmation message will be sent back to customers, letting them know how long it will take for their meal request to be ready. If all goes right, a customer can then pick up their order without waiting in line.
"On the high end we're getting 25 to 30 orders a day," says Jeff Drucker, the president of Drucker Subway Inc, whose seven San Diego area franchises have already been using the texting technology for about seven months. "I'm confident that text messaging is the way that we'll be going."
Drucker was so encouraged by the results at his own stores that he helped convince other franchises to try it themselves. Surprisingly, he says one of its best uses is discouraging "phony food orders" from telephone pranksters. It also frees up employees from taking phone orders that are usually more time-consuming than texting.
While his text business has been most successful in business areas during lunchtime, orders have been slower in residential neighborhoods. That he believes will change when they begin promoting the service with local advertising. The franchises will also be able to send in-store promotions to customer cell phones.
The Southern California Subway restaurants are not the first to use mobile technology. Last January, a similar program called "Subway Now" was unveiled in New York City that allows customers to text message their orders and makes credit card purchases online. Pizza Hut, Papa Johns and McDonalds are among the other fast food companies that have already introduced text messaging in selective markets.
Text messaging food orders can have its downside. With credit card numbers left on file, there's potential for theft and identity fraud.