While dine-in traffic may have declined for quick-service restaurants in the past couple of years, to-go and delivery surged as restaurant brands reconfigured their strategies to prosper in a world where consumers were placing more digital orders than ever before.  

That pandemic sent mobile ordering—which had already seen a more-than-steady increase the past few years–soaring to new heights as first-timers starting using their phones to place orders in a way that felt both safe and convenient. According to research by Sensor Tower, quick-service app downloads in 2020 grew by 21 percent, reaching 83 million and surpassing the growth of third-party app downloads. 

All touchpoints have become critical to provide customers with options to order how they want, but perhaps none more than mobile. Mobile is how customers prefer to order and actually passed drive-thru as the channel where they are likely to spend the most, per Bluedot. It’s also a way for restaurants to cut down on labor costs, build loyalty, expose first-time customers to the brand and turn on customers to rewards programs and new menu items.  

There’s no arguing mobile apps are a worthy investment and their popularity will continue even after COVID-19 subsides, but it’s not as easy as creating an app and letting it ride. Restaurant brands should be constantly testing the feature and functionality of their apps to ensure they are optimizing them in the right way and not leaving money on the table. A/B testing—where you compare two versions of a variable to see which performs better—can tell you where your customers are running into roadblocks and where there is opportunity to boost engagement and sales.

While all elements of an app should be tested, the signup and check-out experiences are particularly important because those are where a lot of customers tend to drop off. Here are some ideas to A/B test within those specific functions. A best practice is to run one test at a time and for two weeks each, so you can see which version is making the biggest impact.

Optimizing the Sign-Up Experience

Onboarding is where customers formulate a first impression of your app and your brand and, when done well, can improve their long-term retention. This process involves guiding new users towards the desired outcome—which, in the case of restaurants, means buying items from within your app. The main thing to consider with onboarding is whether or not you’re directing customers toward the actions needed to easily and successfully complete their order.

When it comes to a customer creating an account, a large majority want to avoid having to enter every single piece of their information manually. By giving them the option to sign in using one of their social accounts, you are instantly removing some friction from the onboarding process.

It’s also imperative to ensure customers get started on their order right after signing up. Sending an immediate email is a powerful cross-channel activation strategy to nudge users towards sign-up completion. Push notifications can also be used to remind diners to place an order or finish signing up for their account, in the instances where they drop off or fail to verify their account.

To provide a more personalized experience, you can ask users to share the types of food and drinks they enjoy. This information can be used to suggest food items or present them with specialized promotions within the app in the future.

A/B Testing the Sign-up Process

Use A/B tests to experiment with all areas of your onboarding flow and see what resonates most with customers. Some ways to experiment within your app include:

  • Test new imagery, copy, sign-in options and the number of steps it takes to onboard.
  • A/B test ways for users to verify their account or start using your app, whether it is through email verification or push notifications.
  • Experiment on tipping options with pre-selected tip percentages.
  • Play around with how offers are presented and personalized on the restaurant discovery page.


Optimizing the Checkout Flow

The checkout flow is the final step before a customer converts and, because it can often be a source of frustration, it’s a place where you should put an extra emphasis in the testing department.

The checkout stage also provides an opportunity to increase cart size by upselling a customer by suggesting additional add-ons to their order. A best practice is to include recommendations based on what items you are tracking as popular among other users, especially if you can analyze by geography and other factors. At the checkout stage, Chick-fil-A has a form that customers can fill out to all a special request. This is a last chance for users to specify that they want to substitute an ingredient or add an additional item to their order.

It’s also important to clearly present customers with an itemized breakdown of costs and associated fees prior to the actual order being placed. This way the customer knows where each expense is coming from. The breakdown can include the cost of food and tax and, in the case of deliveries, those associated fees and tips. By default, some apps will automatically choose a recommended tipping amount.

Checkout is a prime opportunity to call out any final promotions which could make their checkout experience better. This can be done through adding value for special promotions. Chick-fil-A lets users start collecting rewards as they gain points with each order. Customers can redeem those points for free items such as waffle fries, an ice cream cone or fruit cup. Not only does this provide added value to a customer, but it can deepen customer loyalty.

A/B Testing the Check-out Process

Similar to the onboarding process, there are endless areas you can experiment with during checkout. Some tests to try include:

  • Swapping the images of menu items and copy to see which performs best
  • Testing call-to-actions, such as where the “add to cart” button is located, its size or color
  • A/B testing the number of steps required to checkout, or the layout of your checkout flow
  • Testing different promotions–for example, see whether a discount on an order or a free item is more appealing to customers when checking out
  • Experimenting with the description of menu items


Experimenting on various sections of your app will help you to learn to build a better product and drive towards KPIs. Never underestimate the impact a small change can have on your user experience. From onboarding to taking a customer’s credit card information, every step counts to ensure users become loyal patrons and build a habit of using your restaurant-branded app.

Aaron Glazer is the CEO and co-founder of Taplytics, the most comprehensive feature management and experimentation platform for the modern enterprise. Digital leaders like Grubhub and Chick-fil-A use Taplytics to create a competitive advantage.

Ordering, Outside Insights, Story, Technology