Two Interesting Features of Shake Shack’s Mobile Ordering Test


On Monday, Shake Shack launched a single-unit mobile ordering test, giving customers a chance to bypass the iconic lines at the better-burger concept founded by Danny Meyer.  

The technology is a hodgepodge of several vendors, including mobile developer Fuzz, mobile ordering from Olo (in which Meyer invested and now holds a board seat), guest engagement platform Paytronix and digital experience testing services from Applause.

Olo CEO Noah Glass said since founding the company, Shake Shack has been high on his list of desired clients. Certainly the growth brand is at the center of the better burger war, but Olo’s first office also happened to be next to one of the busier locations.

“As a company with a registered trademark of ‘Skip the Line,’ it’s the best use case for a company like ours,” said Glass.

There’s no timeline for a full rollout, and Glass said he’s “not looking at the scoreboard quite yet.” But regardless of what the data shows when it does come, there are two novel things that the industry should pay attention to in the test.

First, order windows. One of the greatest fears heard from operators is the affect of mobile orders on kitchen capacity. Will the lunch rush be ruined for in-person diners as a mobile backlog pours in? Will mobile diners be turned off by a long wait? And how will a surge in orders affect labor?

Akin to Open Table or Fandango for movies, however, the new platform will let mobile customers choose a 15-minute window in which they can get their order.

“They’re theoretically reserving a certain amount of order capacity or cooking capacity throughout the day for digital ordering,” said Glass. “You can imagine that this has this cool effect of being very transparent to a customer to see that these are the available times you can walk up and skip the line and get your order faster and here are the times that are taken.”

It’s nice for customers and kitchen staff already, but in the future, it could be enhanced further. Inspired by “load balancing” from website development that keeps sites running fast, Glass said future functionality could push customers to other stores if demand is too high at their chosen location.

“The ability to basically smooth out the demand curve and push customers to shoulder times at the same restaurant or to other restaurants potentially is a really cool thing,” said Glass.

The second innovation, actual order updates. It’s something every restaurant customer wants, especially those who have sat waiting a painfully long time in their favorite restaurant despite the order tracker saying, “Your Order is Ready!”

In the restaurant, Shake Shack diners are given a buzzer (manufactured by J-Tech) and set to mill around the store until an employee marks the order complete, alerting and surprising the customer when their order is ready. The new ordering system mimics that buzzer, but instead sends alerts via text messages in real time.

“Obviously you don’t have a beeper if you ordered through the app, but they’ll send you a text alert that is driven off the same action of them hitting that bump bar, saying the order is ready in their system,” said Glass. “In other implementations of mobile ordering, it’s typically based on a vague estimate of how long an order will take. Here it’s not just the estimate, you get the actual update when the order is ready.”

As for everyone in that long line staring daggers at the beaming technocrat, it’s the perfect in-store marketing for the new system.

“The demonstration effect is incredible when you see someone walk right up and skip the line,” said Glass. “You can now have this better, faster experience if you’re willing to make that commitment to the brand by making an account and placing your order in this new way.”

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