One of the best things to come out of this current tech dystopia of staring at our phones all day long is that getting fast food is easier than ever. While it was never exactly difficult to get fast food in most of the United States, almost every major chain now has a mobile app that allows those of us with phones to get our food with as little fuss as possible.
Which apps stand above the rest? It’s a tough question to answer with any kind of authority for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, geographical distribution made it logistically impossible for me to test certain apps, no matter how good they looked. Sorry to Jack in the Box, Whataburger, and Sonic; the problem isn’t you, it’s New York City.
Second, personal taste is a big factor here. I might like fast food restaurants you don’t, and there’s nothing I can do about that. But even acknowledging individual tastes and the limits of geography, there are some indisputably great fast food mobile apps. Here are five of them.
1. Burger King
Burger King’s mobile app is, well, the king of the fast food mobile space, as far as I’m concerned. It actually made me like Burger King’s food more after years of thinking it had gone downhill.
That’s because when you open the app, you’re hit with a tidal wave of discounts that are as absurd in their quantity as they are in their quality. At the time of writing, the BK app’s home screen is offering 17 different deals. Do you want two bacon cheeseburgers, fries, and a drink for $4? How about two entire Whopper meals for $8.99?
It’s enough to make me wonder whether Burger King is on the verge of going out of business. The part where you put together your own custom mobile orders is totally fine, too, but there’s almost no reason to use it thanks to the ridiculous deals the app offers every day.
Great work, BK. We’re all very proud of you.
2. Taco Bell
I have to be honest: There isn’t a huge gap in quality between items 2 through 5 on this list. Burger King stands tall above the rest, but it’s a pretty tight race afterward.
Taco Bell grabs the second spot because I really like Taco Bell and the mobile app is a quality way to acquire it. There isn’t much in the way of huge savings, but the interface is cleanly laid out, so finding exactly what you want is a simple process.
Once you’ve made that decision, the Taco Bell app offers an impressive amount of customization for menu items. If you’ve got a highly specific Cheesy Gordita Crunch configuration, you can take your time in the app without holding up the line at the restaurant.
The in-app discount offers might not be spectacular, but that’s cancelled out by the fact that Taco Bell is pretty cheap by nature, anyway.
There’s nothing flashy about what Wendy’s does with mobile ordering — it’s fairly standard — but it puts in the work and gets results.
Most importantly, I think Wendy’s makes pretty good fast food. Selecting what you want, customizing it to your liking, and picking it up at the restaurant are all fairly breezy and self-explanatory.
The deals aren’t quite as special as Burger King, but the limited selection is more than acceptable. Two spicy chicken sandwich combos for $10 is nothing to scoff at.
This one is a little bit of a lifetime achievement award, and again, personal taste could make it a controversial choice. The quality of Domino’s pizza is a divisive issue, especially in a place like New York.
But the pizza chain has offered online and mobile ordering for more than a decade. The Pizza Tracker has been a staple for almost the same amount of time. It’s still a little bit creepy and invasive if you think about it too hard, but it’s an online food ordering icon!
If you like the food, there aren’t many better ways to get it.
I don’t think Chipotle’s food is incredible by any means, but the mobile app makes the experience much, much better.
It’s easy to specify exactly what you want in your order and select a pickup time, which is all well and good. But the best part is that you get to skip waiting in line, which is more of a problem at Chipotle, given the multitude of choices and how they make your food, than some other chain restaurants.
The app turns Chipotle from a place you might want to avoid during the lunch rush to a perfectly acceptable solution, which is an impressive feat.
Most fast food apps hit roughly the same bar of quality, it turns out. There are some that are totally worthwhile and that barely missed the cut. They deserve some mention, too:
Shake Shack’s app is like Chipotle’s in that it’s an essential tool for skipping long lines. You can also check off things you’re allergic to in your profile, which should be standard. It honestly would have made the list if not for the fact that Shake Shack still isn’t available in large swaths of the U.S.
Panera, Potbelly, and Panda Express all have seemingly fine mobile apps too, if that’s your thing.
Go forth and order.