Fast food restaurant apps lack that special ingredient

Jun 2, 2011
Shine

In an era where Taco Bell has its own YouTube channel, it’s weird how impossibly inessential most of the apps for fast food restaurants are. I mean, here we are in 2011 and I can send tweets back and forth with @BurgerKing, but if I want to play some weird app game featuring The King, […]

In an era where Taco Bell has its own YouTube channel, it’s weird how impossibly inessential most of the apps for fast food restaurants are.

I mean, here we are in 2011 and I can send tweets back and forth with @BurgerKing, but if I want to play some weird app game featuring The King, or even just figure out where the closest BK is to my current locale, I’m totally out of luck. How is that possible?

I find the former problem much more disconcerting than the latter. It’s certainly not hard to go anywhere else on the Internet to find the location of a restaurant near you, but that hasn’t stopped numerous restaurants, including Taco Bell and McDonald’s, from offering extremely bare bones restaurant locator apps.

In McDonalds’ defense, at least their app offers information on getting a career with McD’s, along with some nutritional information that I’m sure if I read, I’d have a hard time ever returning to the store again.

Taco Bell and Chick-Fil-A won’t even give you that much. And it was Chick-Fil-A that got me thinking about this in the first place. With their first Chicago location set to open at Water Tower Place on June 16, I wanted to learn a little more about the company I’ve heard so much about but yet know so little. Are they quirky? Do they have a sense of humor? Their app certainly doesn’t.

So I set out downloading various restaurant-focused apps, trying to see if any of them actually showed off a little good humor or personality. Burger King’s lack of an app caught my by surprise perhaps because they’ve been so good with stealthily marketing their products through games via the Xbox 360 for years.

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The Outback Steakhouse app doesn’t exactly match the rest of the apps I downloaded on my quest given that it’s more of a sit-down restaurant, but other than in-app ordering, there’s not a lot going on there either.

The Red Robin app got a little bit closer to what I was looking for, in that it actually lets users create an entire meal within the app. They can then save the meal for later reference. I guess this would be helpful if you were in a huge hurry or if the Red Robin you were in ran out of menus to look at.

All right, so maybe it isn’t the best app, but at least it isn’t just a store locator app. In fact, the Red Robin app doesn’t even have a store locator function. So I guess even an app that brought something new to the table couldn’t help but take something else off of it.

No, the best app of the bunch, as far as interesting fast food apps are concerned, turns out to belong to Wendy’s. The Wendy’s: It Happened For Real app doesn’t actually seem like a Wendy’s sponsored app until you download it.

The app itself is just a series of short web videos narrated by a comedian. The videos are all fairly safe for work, and usually focus on some impressive feat like an entire hotel being constructed in six days.

At the end of each video you can answer a multiple-choice question. Three correct answers allows you to enter into a Wendy’s sponsored drawing for $250 dollars. Other than the Wendy’s logo at the bottom corner of the app, this is one of the only times the Wendy’s name is even mentioned.

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I’m not sure how well It Happened For Real is working as a marketing tool for Wendy’s, but it is easily the most interesting fast food related app I’ve run across.

But these other apps? You guys need to get it in gear. Taco Bell, Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, I’m talking to you! Be more interesting! Stop telling me where your stores are and start telling me why I should enjoy your brand at all. Burger King, for god’s sake you guys were the king (excuse the pun!) of this stuff a few years ago. Now what?

Enough is enough. If I’m going to eat food that’s terrible for me, the least I can do is be entertained.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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