If you’ll allow me to engage in some rather speculative predictions about the future, I have a vision I’d like to sketch out (for some reason) about what fast food service will look like in the not-so-distant future. The short of it is, smartphones will automatically place an order and pay for it for people on their way to work, school, or other routine destinations.

In large part, the necessary tech is already here. The payments system is obvious, as you can already buy apps and songs on your phone. The other main part is right around the corner, as Apple’s upcoming iOS5 will provide location based reminders that deliver a preprogrammed message when you are near a certain location. For instance, you can tell it to remind you to buy milk when your phone detects that you are in the grocery store. The only change I’m proposing is that reminders should be directed outward, to the retailers you are heading to.

This means that Dunkin Donuts will know when you are five minutes away, and will receive your order, all without you having to do anything. Then when you walk in to the store you pull up your Dunkin Donuts app, wave the barcode in front of a scanner, and the worker (or machine) will give you your order. The app could be time and date specific as well, so it won’t order unless you are five minutes from the Dunkin Donuts, and it’s a weekday, and it’s around 8am.

An even simpler version of this allows you to order on your smartphone before you leave the house, with the phone telling the store how long it will take you to get there, and therefore when they should start cooking. Think of this as taking the MTO machines in many food places and simply putting it in the smartphone. It’s easy to imagine how this future of retail could cut down on the number of retail food workers by 15% or even more.