Tired of waiting in line for a cup of coffee? In a rush to grab lunch? New apps are helping consumers skip the lines by pre-ordering coffee, drinks and meals.
Restaurant chains, start-up companies and payment firms are hoping the apps help them capture a bigger portion of the U.S. restaurant industry.
"Retailers are working on making the equivalent of a fast lane on a highway for transactions," said Nick Holland, of Javelin Strategy and Research in California, which focuses on financial services and payment industries.
The pre-ordering apps have been compared to Uber, the fast-growing rides-on-demand service that is changing the taxi industry.
Preo, for iPhone and Android, works with some bars in New York City to allow customers to pre-order and pay for drinks on their smartphones.
"We're taking the clunky point-of-sale systems and revamping them so that customers have a simple way of ordering for themselves," said Richard Liang, the CEO of New York City-based Preo.
Customers place their orders and when the drink is ready, the app sends a notification and the customer's credit card, which is stored in the app, is then charged.
Another app called Square Order, also available for iPhone and Android, allows people in New York and San Francisco to pre-order restaurant meals for pickup. It predicts when the customer will pick up the meal based on their location so it is ready and warm when they get there.
Hangry, an app for customers in Toronto, works in a similar way, as does Bar Pass, which allows users in London to pre-order drinks and food at local cafes, pubs and arenas. Both are available for iPhone and Android.
Some large restaurant and food chains have released their own apps, but these are only available in certain regions.
Unlike Uber, Liang said expanding food and drink pre-ordering apps nationally is more difficult, which is why many of these apps only work in large cities.
"In order to onboard a driver, you basically just have to get them to download an app. But for us to onboard a venue, you need to train the whole staff on how to use the system," he explained.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and G Crosse)