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Can Apps Make Fast Food Even Faster? We Put Them to the Test. Essay

A new wave of promises to make fast food even faster. But how good are they? We put four (all available for both iOS and Android) to the test. Bon app-étit!

Chick-fil-A One 

The promise: Customize meals down to extra salt and “lite” mayonnaise, skip the line for pickup and earn points toward free “treats.”

The reality: I felt all-powerful strutting into a crowded midtown Manhattan location and grabbing my bag of bird without a wait. And those free treats are a big deal: Chick-fil-A’s loyalty program — which rewards frequent customers with items like soft-serve — had been invite-only and shrouded in mystery for years. The app finally grants anybody entrée.

Taco Bell Live Más 

The promise: Make customized orders, get deals and maybe even play a game.

The reality: The app is eye-poppingly busy — lots of scenic landscapes and pics of having fun overlaid by text like “Time to Recharge.” At testing time, there were no special offers and the built-in game was “out of season.” Womp womp. One plus, such as it is: I could choose additional ingredients or condiments for each food item.

Starbucks 

The promise: Beat the line by preordering and prepaying for coffee and food. Cash in rewards for free beverages.

The reality: If your local Starbucks has fear-inducing lines (like mine does), life is better when you can grab a joe to go. Although the automatic encourages me to stay: I’d get free in-store refills. (Also, I’d get a free drink on my birthday.) Maybe next time, I’ll just grab a table to work at — and order from there.

Domino’s Zero Click 

The promise: Open an app and a pizza magically shows up at your door. No further tapping or typing required. 

The reality: This is nothing short of evil genius: I open the app, wait 10 seconds without clicking “cancel,” and my favorite pizza (stored in my “pizza profile”) shows up about 30 minutes later. Good news: The self-loathing associated with buying a MeatZZa Feast Pizza all for myself drops precipitously when I don’t have to say the order out loud. 

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