Skip the line, skip some of life

Skip the line, skip some of life

I have mostly positive feelings about skip-the-line apps and websites like Ritual, BonApp, Hangry, Starbucks, and Skip The Dishes, among others. But I have started noticing changes in my daily routine that I am afraid might be reshaping, not necessarily or absolutely for the better. Let me explain.

How these apps work

Skip-the-line apps allow users to find restaurants, cafes, and other food businesses nearby their current location, browse these businesses menus, place an order and pay from wherever they are, using their phone. These apps inform the user of their order status and when they should go pick it up. Users need only to show their face and say their name, when they pick up their orders. Users can also rate their experience through the app.

The good

First of all, I appreciate the time I save by skipping lines. This comes in handy when I am trying to limit work interruptions, so I can meet a deadline or such. With every order I place through one of these apps, I save between 10-15 minutes I used to spend waiting in line to place my order and then waiting for it to be prepared.

It’s also great not having to take my credit card out of my wallet when paying for meals, or even carrying my wallet at all when going out to grab lunch.

Most of these apps also give you rewards for using them frequently. This is a nice feature that saves me a few dollars after using it a few times.

The bad

Now, I am starting to miss some of the interactions I used to have during the wait time at the businesses. This is probably a personal issue, since, being an extrovert, I find it hard to wait quietly and silently when I have the chance to engage in conversation with the cook, cashier or someone else in line.

Sometimes, I might run into a friend at a restaurant and decide to eat in, to catch up on life, instead of running back to the office. But now, the probability of bumping into someone is 30 times less, as there is only now a 30-second window to overlap with another customer, instead of a 15-minute window.

I also used to spend the wait time analyzing the businesses from multiple perspectives, getting a better idea of their brand, customer and service experience; or sometimes just observing people. My opportunities for experiencing the businesses are now limited to the brief pick-up and consumption experience of the food.

The Impact on the experience

With skip-the-line apps, the experience of a business transforms into a mixture of the always vital product quality and the now needed business’ effective adaptation of the service to support users of the app.

With these apps, the businesses’ opportunities for selling their brand diminish, requiring a transformation that targets new ways of branding and creating meaningful experiences.

Businesses will likely have to focus on the packaging of orders, the value add, and the now brief pick-up experience.

For now, using these apps removes a social component from my lunch break. Maybe there’s an opportunity here for the exploration of ideas of how these apps could evolve and support social interactions and business’ branding and overall experience. Perhaps by removing a chunk of the experience, the waiting portion, there are opportunities to add in other elements that are equally or more socially engaging.

Do we all want or need skip-the-line apps? Certainly not everyone, and certainly not all the time. I will most likely continue using these apps, but I have decided not to make them my every day routine. After all, a lunch break is supposed to be a break.

Hamilton Hernandez is Senior Experience Architect at Akendi, a firm dedicated to creating intentional experiences through end-to-end experience design. To learn more about Akendi or user experience design, visit www.akendi.com.

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