Dunkin' Doughnuts is fixing 2 of customers' biggest complaints

Dunkin’ Doughnuts is rolling out a new app that will let customers skip the line.

On Friday, the coffee-and-doughnut chain announced it is launching a new app on June 6 that will allow loyalty program members to order and pay via mobile, and then cut the line to pick up their items.

“This is ground shaking,” Dunkin’ CEO Nigel told Business Insider. “I think it’s the biggest service change since we introduced drive-thru. I’m so excited about this, it’s tough to put it in words.”

Dunkin’s new app, available in the App Store or Google Play as “New Dunkin’ Doughnuts,” allows customers to place on-the-go orders up to 24 hours in advance, skipping the line to pick up the orders inside the restaurant or via drive-thru. Payment is automatic, using the Dunkin’ Doughnuts card through the app.

The app will help improve two of the most important parts of business at any quick-service chain: increasing speed, and reducing mistakes.

Skipping the line has long been customers’ dream for any fast-food chain, cutting precious minutes from an already speedy process.

“We’re famous for speed,” says Travis. “Some other the businesses that have similar apps don’t have the same speed as us, so we see that as a real competitive advantage.”

According to Travis, Dunkin’ has created a culture where speed and convenience are extremely important, thanks in part to the chain’s New England base. (“People from the Northeast are slightly impatient,” he says.)

The company has measured the time for each piece of the puzzle — waiting in line, ordering, paying, food preparation — and worked to make each piece as time-efficient as possible. Using the app to cut the line out of the equation is simply the next step in this process.

However, as speed picks up, mistakes often also increase.

“One of the biggest challenges we have — it’s not just Dunkin’, it’s everyone — is order accuracy,” says Travis.

At a chain known for speed with a wide range of menu options, it’s easy for mistakes to slip through the cracks, from forgetting an item in a large order to simply adding the wrong kind of milk. The app can help fix that, allowing customers to plug in exactly what they want, as well as save favourites for repeated orders.

“We have a lot of variations, we have a lot of personalisation,” says Travis. “This teaches people about Dunkin’. If you go to, say, a company that starts with S that I can’t remember the name, they will make you put your own cream and sweetener in… The app does it for you.”

Of course, the new app also has some qualities that benefit Dunkin’ in addition to the consumer.

Dunkin’s app allows the company to gather more information on individual customers, as well as market to loyalty program members on a personalised basis. By making the app only available to DD Perks members, the company has the chance to grow its loyalty program, which currently has 4.6 million members, compared to the more than 12 million Starbucks’ Rewards members.

It could also cut down on labour costs, with employees taking orders currently accounting for about 30% of in-store workers at Dunkin’ Doughnuts locations.

“I think this is a win for franchisees, and a win for the consumers,” says Travis.

Dunkin’ Doughnuts isn’t the only chain exploring mobile apps. Earlier this week, Chick-fil-A announced it was rolling out an ordering and payment app of its own, in part to speed up service. Starbucks has one of the most popular mobile order-and-pay apps in the industry, while Taco Bell launched an app with similar features in 2015.

Dunkin’ began testing the new app last year in Portland, Maine in late 2015, rolling out the test in recent months to Boston and New York City. According to Travis, its roll out is just the beginning of new, tech-focused innovation for the chain, which is currently testing delivery and curbside pick up in select markets.

“This is the architecture for the future,” Travis says of the app. “We’re trying to speed up things even more.”

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