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Text message ordering for fast food restaurants is on the the rise.

Waiting to order at a quick-service restaurant ranked among consumers’ top five “waits we hate most” in a 2007 survey by global technology provider NCR Corp. According to the company’s Service Consumer Survey, 97 percent of Americans are ready to turn to self-service technology—in the form of text messaging, the Internet, and kiosks—to speed up their transactions.

Eighty-six percent noted that they are more likely to do business with a company that offers the flexibility to interact using self-service, an increase of 11 percent over the year before. Sixty-six percent said that the availability of self-service technologies creates a more positive perception of a brand.

According to Noah Glass, founder and CEO of mobile and online technology provider GoMobo, alternative ordering technology has been shown to increase customer loyalty. Glass says one of GoMobo’s restaurant partners conducted a survey and found that almost half (49 percent) of the respondents said that they would come back more frequently because of the advance-ordering option.

Speed was the No. 1 reason consumers preferred self-serve, garnering 68 percent of the votes. Convenience came in a close second (64 percent), and making transactions easier (52 percent) followed.

GoMobo uses a formula based on a restaurant’s average order fulfillment time and the size and complexity of the order to give customers a precise pick-up time. Aside from line-busting, self-serve also eliminates the inconvenience and frustration consumers experience when they get busy signals or are placed on hold when ordering by phone, says Randy Eckels, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the CBORD Group, a provider of kiosk hardware and software.

Today’s Technology

When operators were asked by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) which alternative ordering technologies they offered, 47 percent named fax, 20 percent said online, 6 percent listed text messages, and 2 percent said self-activated terminals. Looking to the future, the majority of these same operators predicted that all but fax ordering would grow in popularity. Eighty-three percent said they saw self-activated terminals as an up-and-coming order innovation, 69 percent named online, and 61 percent said text messaging. Only 44 percent predicted more faxing in the future.

That doesn’t mean fax technology has become obsolete quite yet. For example, at Mooyah Burgers & Fries, a regional quick-service chain with three Dallas restaurants and three more to open shortly in Dallas, Austin, and Houston, customers placing orders for office meetings and other large groups still tend to send them via fax machines, says company president Robert Anderson. The restaurants, which have offered an Internet ordering option since the first unit opened in April 2007 and have been accepting text orders since January, also receive orders via fax from provider GoMobo.

LiveOnTheGo.com faxes online and PDA orders to the two Fresca’s Mexican Grill restaurants operated by licensee Jim Campbell. Campbell tested online ordering at his four full-service Ruby’s Diner franchise locations before recently introducing it at Fresca’s. And when Bar-B-Cutie, an 18-unit chain, launches its online ordering initiative this year, it will also have provider Onosys fax those transactions.

Text messages became part of Papa John’s ordering equation in 2007. Together the online and text options account for about 20 percent of the company’s total sales, says Jim Ensign, vice president of marketing and communications.

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