Fast food apps totally worth their salt

Yet another way smartphones can help you avoid other humans.

Image credit: Kevin Purdy

I had to make a last-minute run to Home Depot the other day. If you've ever had to make a last-minute Home Depot run while a friend, spouse, or contractor was waiting on you, you know what stress adrenaline (stressdrenaline!) feels like.

I was hungry, but I had so little time. This is how fast food often appears and conquers your decisions. Right near the Home Depot, it turns out, is a Five Guys, which has burgers and fries and is just remarkably good for the speed at which they're shipping out brown bags. The lunch lines can be taxing, though, and these contractors will gladly hang around after their expected finish time and rack up a few billable costs if I don't get them this freaking lamp.

So on my way out the door, I pull up the Five Guys app on Android (there is, of course, an iOS version. I have a meal saved as a favorite: a Little Cheeseburger "all the way" and a drink (which you fill yourself at the Coke Freestyle machine). I have a credit card saved for paying, and I set a time to pick up, which is the drive time to that location.

I walk in, notice just how many people are looking at me like I am a Line-Jumping Jerk from the Future, pick up my bag and head back to my car. Yes, I am sadly eating over my steering wheel, but I am on a mission here, people. A mission that has just enough room for almost too many pickles and mushrooms on a delicious flat-topped burger.

I relay this story not just to make you jealous of my amazing suburban journey into cholesterol and Mission-style exterior lamps. I am thinking about the roadblocks on the way to universal pay-with-phone systems, and wondering if part of the issue is that, for certain establishments, they can simply create a better experience for ordering and paying than simply supplanting a credit card.

Let's hit a few of the really convenient apps that let you order from fairly common food joints on your phone, beyond Five Guys. No quality/health judgments here, folks, just pure "if it's convenient" material:

  • Chipotle [iOS] [Android]
  • GrubHub (citywide restaurant/takeout delivery/ordering)[iOS] [Android]
  • Seamless (more restaurant/takeout delivery/ordering) [iOS] [Android]
  • Snapfinger (even more restaurant/takeout delivery/ordering, including California Pizza Kitchen) [iOS] [Android]
  • Subway (California only, for some reason) [iOS] [Android]
  • Papa John's [iOS] [Android]
  • Domino's [iOS] [Android]
  • Pizza Hut [iOS] [Android]

Not all of these apps have great graphic and interface design. Some are as utilitarian as an ecommerce site from 1999. But you can order what you want, ahead of time, without having to walk up to the counter and say a small prayer that everything is in place for your pay-by-phone hopes. If a certain pick-up spot is a regular stop on your schedule, add the app to your phone and avoid all complications and interactions.

If nothing else, you can see just how far a pizza joint will go to meet your exacting specifications.

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