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The Taco Bell App Is Capitalizing on Your Crippling Menu Anxiety

App users spend 20 percent more than guests who order at a Taco Bell counter.

Courtesy Taco Bell

Looks like offering "unlimited customization" is paying off for Taco BellAccording to Bloomberg, the fast-food chain's ordering app — which debuted to much fanfare in October 2014 — has resulted in bills 20 percent higher than the average order made at a Taco Bell counter. During an investor meeting earlier this week, Taco Bell reported that app users often tacked on extras like nacho cheese, onions, and sour cream to normal menu items, resulting in higher overall bills. (When the app launched last fall, a press release promised that users would be given "complete access to every Taco Bell ingredient to create what they want, when they want it;" turns out Taco Bell fans just wanted extra cheese.)

The increased customization at Taco Bell proves that diners order differently through an app or a tablet than when ordering from a human restaurant employee — and it's not just the shame that accompanies ordering nachos with a side of extra cheese. In a promotional video touting the app last year, a Taco Bell representative points out that the app relieves the "real condition behind 'menu anxiety.' When people are behind you in line, you feel the pressure to order quickly." Past studies suggest that decreasing "menu anxiety" does indeed increase restaurant sales: In late 2013, Chili's reported that appetizer and dessert sales increased by 20 percent when guests could order directly through a tablet on the table. (Showing guests more food photos, which the Taco Bell app does as well, also doesn't hurt.)

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