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You will soon be able to order McDonald's from your smartphone

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The Golden Arches is trying to catch up with the rest of the fast food industry

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McDonald's has long been a leader in the fast food industry, but it has fallen behind its competitors in one big way: it hasn’t provided customers with a way to order and pay for their meals via smartphone or other mobile device. Now, the company is getting ready to roll out mobile order-and-pay technology, according to Business Insider.

A company representative told Business Insider that the technology will initially roll out to the United States and several international markets next year, with upwards of 25,000 stores using system by 2018. The move would help the restaurant chain catch up with competitors such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Chick-fil-A — all of which have apps that allow customers to place their orders before they arrive at the store, and in some cases, pay directly through the app.

McDonald's has experimented with mobile order-and-pay apps in the past in countries such as Austria and Thailand, and the technology does appear to be in use in some other European locations. However, the company appears ready to take the technology to much larger markets: it launched its app in October 2015, which allows customers to browse menus, find nearby locations and get deals, but it does not include the ability to order or pay. At the time, McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook noted that the company has planned to update its app with mobile order-and-pay functions.

The company began testing the mobile order-and-pay system in 2014 in 22 locations near Columbus, Georgia. Customers ordered food through the app and scanned a QR code, when they picked up their food, which automatically charged a linked debit or credit card linked to the app. The company has also rolled out self-serve kiosks to locations in Europe, Asia, and the United States, which would help customers skip lines and customize their orders.

Updated to clarify that the technology has been tested and is in use in some European locations.