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McDonald's, looking to generate more revenue, tests mobile pay app

Fast-food giant McDonald's is testing an app that

Fast-food giant McDonald's is testing an app that would let customers order and pay from cellphones, then pick up their food in stores, curbside or at drive-thru windows. Credit: Getty Images, 2009

Americans will soon be able to order and pay for Big Macs from their mobile phones.

McDonald's Corp. is testing a mobile payment application in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas, spokeswoman Lisa McComb said this week.

McDonald's, which Tuesday reported U.S. same-store sales that trailed estimates for August, is looking for ways to make it easier for diners to load up on Big Macs, McWraps and smoothies. It's not alone in seeking to ignite growth at a time when many Americans are eating out less. Burger King Worldwide Inc. offers a delivery service with a $10 minimum order in some U.S. cities, while Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has a mobile ordering app.

"You have to look at the whole generation that's coming up and I think we're moving to a cashless society," Bob Goldin, executive vice president at Chicago-based restaurant researcher Technomic Inc., said in an interview. Mobile apps appeal to millennials and teenagers, he said.

After ordering via a mobile phone, McDonald's customers can pick up food in stores, curbside or at drive-thru windows, according to notes from a June meeting of McDonald's franchisees and company executives obtained by Bloomberg News. The system will also include special promotions, offers and a loyalty program.

"While many competitors are publicizing their efforts to get an initial foothold in the mobile arena, no one has developed a comprehensive solution that integrates all the opportunities this technology presents," according to the notes.

"We're always looking at new technologies to make the McDonald's experience better for our customers," McComb said. "We are testing some of these technologies in a few markets, so it's premature to speculate on the decisions we may make after the tests, but we're excited to bring a cutting-edge experience in the future to our customers."

McDonald's, which gets about one-third of revenue from domestic locations, is working to draw cash-strapped Americans with new products including steak breakfast biscuits, chicken wings and Quarter Pounders with different toppings and sauces.

The company already has a U.S. mobile phone app for customers to locate restaurants, find nutrition information and search for jobs that was introduced in 2011. The year before that, the chain began offering free Wi-Fi at its restaurants globally to encourage customers to stick around.

McDonald's has about 34,700 locations worldwide, including more than 14,100 in the United States.

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