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I'll Take My Chipotle App To Go, Thanks

January 17, 2009

My favorite burrito restaurant, Chiptole, launched a free mobile ordering app earlier this week. The app would allow customers to find their nearest Chipotle, choose items from Chipotle’s menu for pickup and pay for their order with a credit card. (Just like their online ordering system, which is wonderful). I was all set to write up a review about this but when I went to the app store to check it out- the app had mysteriously vanished! Huh? I blink and it’s gone?! Zoinks Scoob, looks like we have a mystery on our hands! Why would an online ordering app be so quickly yanked from iTunes? The theories in my head started flowing like a bad Oliver Stone movie- Could it all have been an elaborate hoax? Did other fast food restaurants file for an injunction - halting their burrito business? Did an unsatisfied customer hack into the app store and sabotage them? Did they suddenly decide that they don’t want customers ordering ahead of time? Or did it go up even higher than that? Was the government involved? And how? Who was going to profit - We’re through the looking glass here, people. It’s like a riddle wrapped in a chicken burrito mystery inside an enigma… But of course, it turns out to be far less exciting than all of that. The developer, Sequence, claims that a few hours after the application’s release, unexpected demand was overloading their servers. Thus they were left with no other choice than to pull the application:
User requests were timing out with enough frequency that the team decided it would rather hold off until it could offer a more enjoyable and reliable experience. The current goal is to have it back on the App Store in two weeks, along with some cosmetic changes.
Hmm… I don’t know about you, but my eyebrow is raised in suspicion. Something smells fishy, and it ain’t their fish tacos. (Do they even fish tacos? *Checks their menu online. They certainly don’t. Oh well,) While I don’t buy their excuse, there may be some truth to the unexpected demand claim, (though how many people were really rushing out to download the Chipotle app? Honestly?). I think the reality is that the app had a lot of problems. See, the majority of the comments left on the app were negative. Users had been complaining about UI problems and numerous other glitches that pretty much rendered the app useless. Some complained about how long it took to place an order, how you had to enter a zip code to find the store, not being able to store information, having to enter your email and password each time you open it, etc. I could go on, but why bother? The app is gone. But don’t get me wrong, I understand developing an app like this to work across the country can be difficult:
Besides having to locate the closest restaurants, the application needs to also keep track of pricing differences between locations. And each Chipotle restaurant had to effectively replace its online backend to allow for mobile orders (the overhauled system also introduced an enhanced browser-based online ordering system that went live in October). The Sequence team also had to deal with creating a transaction system that could save credit card information securely but was also convenient - something that he says is difficult to do from a basic iPhone application. To deal with security issues, the Chipotle application stores credit card information on a server that is accessed through a browser after entering your Chipotle user ID and password.
So what do you think? Over demand or a little corporate spin? I mean, it’s not like we’re going to hear them say, “Turns out everyone hated it. Yep, it was a horrible experience for most everyone, so we’re going to take a couple weeks to fix it up a bit.” Instead we get, an almost insulting exaggeration “This app was such a BIG hit- geez-louise, it crashed our gosh darn servers! So, we’re going to re-release it later, and make it even more spiffy while we’re at it!” [Via TechCrunch] [Photo via Sequence]

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