Chick-fil-A has mastered the fast food fried chicken sandwich. But can it figure out a mobile app?
In the first few days of September, the 52-year old chain encouraged customers to use its relaunched mobile ordering app, called Chick-fil-A One, in the way it knows best: by offering free food. "Chick-fil-A customers who already have a Chick-fil-A One account or download the app and create a new account will receive a free breakfast item," the company said.
The strategy has worked well in the past. In June, when the company first launched the revamped app — the product of "three years of collaborating, testing, learning, and developing," it said. In just three days, Chick-fil-A One was downloaded a million times, and was the No. 1 free app in the iTunes store.
Free sandwiches aside, biggest promise of the app was allowing customers to cut Chick-fil-A's legendary long lines by ordering ahead — a feature that has proven popular at other busy chains like Starbucks. The app has been downloaded more than 7 million times since June 1, according to the company.
But it has attracted plenty of complaints and a relatively low rating from users — a surprising development for a chain known in the industry for its meticulous approach to service and obsession with carefully designing the customer experience.
According to more than 1,600 reviews of all versions of the app on iTunes, and more than 120 reviews on the current version, many of iPhone users had problems with the Chick-fil-A One app crashing, not registering accounts, and issues adding credit card information.
As of Monday, the app's overall rating on the iTunes store is 3 out of 5 stars.
The current version of the app, issued at the end of August, has an even lower rating: 2.5 stars.
"Love chick. Hate this app," one reviewer wrote. Another complained that after arriving at the restaurant at the time the app indicated, they still had to wait 15 minutes for their order. "App is only useful because of freebies, otherwise I would not use it," read the review.
"Keeps saying 'issue checking you in' then it cancels order," complained a user last week. "It took waaaaay longer than just waiting in the drive thru," another said.
A spokeswoman for Chick-fil-A said these reviews are not representative of the feedback or how the app is working. "Most of the feedback through the app and Google Play (which ranked Chick-fil-A One with a 4.2 rating) has been overwhelmingly positive," she wrote in an email.
But since August 31, when the current version of the app was released, users on Google Play have given it an average score of 3.4/5, according to data from App Annie.
"We are not currently dealing with any system-wide issues. Most of the feedback since the June 1 launch of Chick-fil-A One has been positive, though, as with any technology, there have been isolated incidents. We are tirelessly working on addressing every single one of these," the company said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "The goal of Chick-fil-A One app is to make the guest experience even faster, more convenient and more personal than ever before - and we are committed to making the Chick-fil-A One app the best way to experience Chick-fil-A."
Restaurants from Panera and Starbucks to Taco Bell have been rolling out mobile ordering apps in an effort to reduce wait times and — in some cases — encourage larger orders (mobile apps have been effective at getting customers to order more.) At Starbucks, 5% of transactions now come from its mobile app, and 25% of transactions are paid for by app, the company said at a conference last week.
Venessa Wong is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Wong covers the food industry.
Contact Venessa Wong at email@example.com.
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