What is made-to-order? Definition and examples

If something is Made-to-Order, it means that a company has made it according to a customer’s specifications. We use the term when describing an item that the seller has made to fulfill a specific set of requirements. Some people use the abbreviation MTO.

We can write the term either with or without hyphens, i.e., made to order or made-to-order. However, if you are writing an article, you must be consistent. If you start with hyphens, use them throughout your text; do not switch in the middle of your article.

Fast-food restaurants have made-to-order meals

Made-to-order meals at fast food restaurants
At fast food restaurants such as Burger King or McDonald’s, meals are made-to-order.

When I buy a meal at a fast food restaurant, it is usually made-to-order. At McDonald’s, for example, I can request a normal or large meal, with or without fries, with or without onions, etc. McDonald’s staff do not assemble the meals until they have received the customer’s instructions.

Collins Dictionary has the following definitions of the term:

“1. If something is made-to-order, it is made according to someone’s special requirements. 2. Custom-built according to the wishes or requirements of a specific individual. 3. Made to conform to the customer’s specifications or measurements; custom-made. 4. Perfectly suitable or conformable.”


Car built-to-order image
If your car was built-to-order, it means that you chose the interior and exterior colors, engine size, types of wheels, etc. Companies that operate a just-in-time system allow customers to ‘build their car.’

We also use the term built-to-order. However, built-to-order is more common when we are talking about machines.

For highly-configured products such as computer servers, vehicles, motorbikes, and bicycles, we can use the term build-to-order. A defense company may deliver built-to-order fighter jets. This means that the customer, usually a government, had specific requirements.


Made-to-measure dress
If they can afford it, most people will pay more for a made-to-measure wedding dress.

We use the terms made-to-measure or tailor-made with the same meaning as made-to-order. However, we only use ‘made-to-measure’ when talking about custom clothing.

Made-to-measure contrasts with ready-to-wear or off-the-peg.

I expect a made-to-measure jacket to fit me perfectly. However, if I choose a ready-to-wear jacket, I will have to try on a few before I find one that is just the right fit.

Tailor-made suits are considerably more expensive than their ready-to-wear equivalents.

Similarly, the concept of made-to-order has expanded beyond physical products, with software and digital content now often being customized to meet individual user preferences and needs.

Example sentences

Below, you can see seven example sentence which, hopefully, will help you see how we use the term “made-to-order” in context:

  1. “The restaurant offers made-to-order dishes that cater to customers’ dietary restrictions.”
  2. “The company specializes in made-to-order furniture that is tailored to the customer’s preferences.”
  3. “The tailor-made me a suit that was made-to-order.”
  4. “All the made-to-order jackets are traditionally tailored in Scotland and hand-finished.”
  5. “Choose from a wide selection of in-stock gowns, or consider a made-to-order gown if you have a specific design in mind.”
  6. “This option is available in a number of different places that have made-to-order services.”
  7. “You should be aware that, unfortunately, many tall items will be made-to-order and thus cost extra.”

Two videos

These two YouTube videos come from our sister channel, Marketing Business Network or MBN. They explain what the terms “Made-to-Order” and “Custom Made” mean using easy-to-understand language and examples:

  • What is Made-to-Order?

  • What is Custom Made?