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Chick-fil-A Introduces Mobile Ordering, New Rewards Program

The app functions similarly to Starbucks' mobile ordering system

Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A is officially going head-to-head with the big guys. Today, the fried chicken chain — which seemingly went from regional cult favorite to nationwide chain overnight — announced the launch of pay-ahead mobile ordering, plus a new rewards program.

Chick-fil-A One, the company's new mobile app, allows guests to customize their order, pay in advance, and skip the line at the register. Food is prepared once customers "check in" at the restaurant via the app, at which time they can head straight to the pick-up counter for their food.

In a release, the chicken chain said research regarding millennial parents (82 percent of whom "would do almost anything to avoid long lines at fast food restaurants") led to the creation of Chick-fil-A One, which replaces the chain's old app.

The app doubles as a rewards program. Customers who are enrolled will be "surprised with their favorite food, which is based on their preferences and previous orders, for free." As users order or purchase through Chick-fil-A One, they get closer to their next free offering. The program is open to anyone age 13 or older, making it far less exclusive than the company's A-List service, which was invite-only.

Both the mobile ordering system and the rewards program bear a striking resemblance to those at another chain — Starbucks. The coffee giant's loyalty program was recently revamped — much to the chagrin of many customers — but remains incredibly popular. There are some 12 million customers currently enrolled in Starbucks' U.S. rewards program and the use of mobile-order-and-pay continues to beat expectations.

Approximately four percent of sales across all Starbucks stores in the U.S. come via the brand's mobile-order-and-pay feature. The numbers are even higher at the chain's busiest stores, according to Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotnam, who told analysts on a recent earnings call that, at its 300 busiest stores, "mobile ordering approaches 20 percent during peak hours."

Other chains are looking to cash in on similar programs, too. Dunkin' Donuts offers mobile ordering through its app and Chipotle will soon unveil a loyalty program as a way to bring back once-loyal customers following a string of food safety issues.

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