On Wednesday, Taco Bell launched a new mobile app that allows its customers to order and pay for their meals from the clinical distance of a smartphone. An app user would then be able to skip the line and pick up his or her "fourth meal" (Taco Bell speak for "snack") upon arrival. The app even offers special deals and saves customers' favorite orders and payment settings, neatly kept for future bingeing.
The publicity rollout for the app employed typical Taco Bell panache⎯the company downed its own website and blacked out its entire social media presence in promotion of the Live Más app.
This funereal effect seemed to imply that Taco Bell was being reborn through its app. The video announcement was no less messianic.
The Live Más app will "reinvent the way we interact with consumers," said Taco Bell resident disruptor Jeff Jenkins, who likened the revolutionary particulars of the app to the invention of the drive-thru window.
The app would also "unlock the Taco Bell kitchen," "deliver experience," "innovate," and cure "menu anxiety," that worrisome sense of urgency to order quickly when someone is standing behind you.
Ordering ahead of time is a sweet perk, but as I downloaded the app and was immediately struck by its slick, pavonine orgy of light, I came to realize that the biggest development here isn't the convenience of ordering ahead or being privy to insider deals. It's the new ability to customize your order, which is reflective of a larger trend in fast food.
Earlier this fall, we noted how Millennials are spurring the fast-casual craze, which has become the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry. The fast-casual standard-bearer has been Chipotle, which, in addition to using locally sourced food, also allows consumers the chance to customize their meals. Ditto for the hamburgers at places like Five Guys. Millennials have demands: Sometimes, it's spicy and mild hot sauce, other times, it's a burger with A1 and caramelized onions.