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iphone apps freeI don’t want this article to sound like a PR piece for the Mexican grill restaurant, Chipotle, but writing as regular customer of the eatery, I want to share how well designed the company’s iPhone and iPod touch app (App Store link) is and why it should be a model for other eateries looking to develop and offer similar iPhone apps for free.

Most iPhone users relish being able to use our iPhone to get things done. We’re always wondering if there is indeed “an app for that” – iPhone apps for free, from mapping directions, getting movie previews, to iPhone food ordering apps.

I’ve tried ordering food using the traditional website structure of a few restaurants, but the iPhone web-formatted user interface for ordering food on those sites took more time than it was worth. The Chipotle iPhone food ordering app is the first of its kind that I’ve seen that makes ordering food very simple.

You can tell the app developers put a lot of thought in how to make the user interface relatively easy to use and aesthetically appealing. The application is built in a hierarchical manner, whereby a limited list of menu items in which you click to further drill down into additional menu items for more levels of details.

To order food using the app, you of course have to set up an account that includes your credit card. Based on the feedback the application has received, it is better to create your account online rather than through the application.

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After clicking the application”˜s opening screens and using the location feature to find the Chipotle nearest to you, you have a few ways to get started creating your order.  If you want a reminder of Chipotle”˜s menu offerings, you click the Food menu button at the bottom of the application. This presents you with clean single-page photos and a short description of Chipotle’s main menu offerings. Granted, because Chipotle is not like say IHOP, with three or four dozen menu offerings, the application is not crammed with too much information. Chipotle”˜s main entrée offerings are presented in 8 pages, in which you slide from page to page with a swipe of your finger.

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Clicking the Order Now button on any one of main entrée or chips pages will take you to the Create New Order section. The resulting menu presents you with a list of six menu categories: Burrito, Bowl, Soft Tacos, Crispy Tacos, Salad, and Sides and Drinks. Clicking one of these categories leads you to another menu page where you select for example the type of Burrito you want to order. Prices for those items are also listed. You click the plus button to add to your order. You can just as easily click the minus button if you change your mind.

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After clicking the Continue button, you are presented with a broad list of side items that you can add to your order, or your “bag”. So basically, the application is designed for you to easily build your order by clicking through the menu .

Once you’ve selected what you want, you click the Add to Bag button. You’re then presented with two input spaces, one for giving a name to your order (for example, Lunch) and “any special instructions” you may have. The reason you give this order a name is because when you are presented with your itemized order, you have the option to save that order as a Favorite, which is very convenient for making future orders.

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Clicking the resulting Checkout Now button will present your order with the subtotal price. After clicking the Checkout button you have to log into your account. Ordering food using this app is almost faster than doing so in the restaurant itself, especially if you have to wait in a long lunch or dinner line.

Now once you arrive to pick up your order, you may experience a little breakdown in the process. Some users of the app have complained that when they arrived to a selected restaurant their order was either not ready or never received. I didn’t experience that problem, but I can imagine it happening. This breakdown doesn’t sound like a problem with the application itself, but perhaps what is done with orders when they are received. A Chipotle franchise may be overtasked and orders may be mismanaged. That’s a customer service issue that needs to worked out at each establishment.

But as for the application itself, I don’t think the process can be simpler. Are there other iPhone food ordering apps that you recommend and find accessible? Are the ones that you find very difficult to use?

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  1. tuck
    November 15, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    It's pretty clear Chipotle isn't trying to replicate authentic mexican food... they're simply taking the "subway" model and applying it to a burrito. What's not to like about meat, cheese, beans, salsa in a bowl? I think Chipotle is great!

  2. Bakari Chavanu
    November 12, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Dang, guys, what's wrong with Chipotle food? Compared to what? I'm not trying to it compares to say authentic Mexican food from say Mexico, but what are you guys comparing it to?

  3. jo
    November 12, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Nice app. Credit card not an issue. The issue is that Chipotle sucks. just like Al mentioned above, completely tasteless food. I'm Mexican and fell embarrassed that this is supposed to be Mexican food. But again, like Al said, this is America so it should do well!

  4. Bakari
    November 12, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    AI, you kinda took my response right out of my mouth about the credit card issue. As for the taste in food, I find it much better than Taco Bell and McDonalds. The food taste fresh and is reasonably priced. As for fast food in general, though, I couldn't agree with you more. In the last few years I really cut down considerably on my fast food intake. Now only eating out about once or twice a week.

  5. Al
    November 12, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Yeah Roy, cause Chipotle isn't a national reputable chain. It's just bunch of greasers slinging hash from a truck. Coincidentally, I ate there yesterday. Disgusting tasteless food that sacrifices quantity for quality. But this is America, so they should do well.

  6. Roy
    November 12, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I'm not sure I want a burrito joint like Chipotle to store my credit card info. No thanks, I'd rather walk inside myself.

    • Bobafett
      November 12, 2009 at 3:25 pm

      Silly fear mongering. That is the whole point of a credit card vs. direct bank account access. If anything goes wrong - mischarge, info stolen - you aren't on the hook.