Panda Express testing mobile ordering system

Panda Express, a Chinese takeout chain with more than 1,300 locations in the United States, is running a pilot program to test the effectiveness of online and mobile ordering.

The pilot is taking place in 100 Panda Express locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego, in partnership with GoMobo. Consumers can use their mobile phone and place an order via text message.

“We are excited to work with GoMobo to test Order Panda,” said Calvin Lee, director of operations improvement and innovation at Panda Restaurant Group, Rosemead, CA. “This will give Panda Express another opportunity to provide our guests with even faster and more convenient service.”

GoMobo provides mcommerce and ecommerce services to restaurants. Clients include Boloco, Cold Stone Creamery, Dallas BBQ, Quiznos and now Panda Express.

Panda Express offers Gourmet Chinese food served in a fast casual environment. Launched in 1983, there are close to 1,300 Panda Express locations throughout 38 states, Puerto Rico and Japan.

Mobile ordering
Consumers can request a Panda Express menu by texting the keyword MENU to short code 466626. The consumer simply replies back with the number of the item that they want to order.

In return, consumers receive a text confirmation and a pick-up time.

The service allows Panda Express customers to order and pay ahead of time from their computer or mobile phone and schedule a time for express pickup at the Panda Express location of their choice. It makes it simple to create a meal, order and pay, and coordinate dinner pickup around one’s busy schedule.

The goal behind this new service is to ultimately drive incremental same-store sales.

Order Panda is also the first major chain launch of the new OLO order receiver device, developed by GoMobo and Peek, creators of the Time Magazine Gadget of the Year in 2008.

OLO is an off-premise ordering technology. It lets restaurants receive prepaid, off-premise orders, without adding an extra phone line or Internet connection.

GoMobo has mobile commerce-enabled other fast food giants. In August, Burger King entered the mobile commerce arena by letting consumers place orders and pay for them via their iPhone.

Burger King teamed up with GoMobo and PointAbout for the development and design of the application (see story).

Panda Express has a good reason to opt for SMS for its mobile ordering.

Why SMS?
Text messaging is the primary form of communication for people ages 13-34. In fact, 86 percent of the population 13 and up own a mobile phone, per comScore.

Ninety-five percent of existing mobile contracts have SMS built into the agreement and more than 90 percent of text messages are opened and read compared to less than 40 percent of all email solicitations.

So it is not surprise that Panda Express is banking on SMS for customer outreach.

“In the same way that first popularized ecommerce by giving consumers a faster, easier way to buy books, is now popularizing mcommerce by giving consumers a faster, easier way to buy food,” said Noah Glass, CEO of GoMobo, New York.

“I believe that food ordering is the killer app for mobile commerce because it is an everyday transaction that we can improve for both buyer and seller by allowing real-time, location-based transactions,” he said.