The concept of ordering food online is not a foreign one to most of us, however just a few years ago it was almost unheard of. Now there are multiple websites offering similar services throughout the country, many specialized to the areas they serve. These websites offer a variety of options to their customers, and their flexibility is inevitably what keeps them coming back. However these websites can also present a potential threat to restaurants over time.
One huge advantage of ordering food online is the elimination of waste. Waste can come in all forms, with one of the most annoying being the waste of our time. With online food ordering the food can come to you or you can pick it up when it’s ready. This means you no longer have to wait for your food to be prepared, and can do something valuable with your time until your food is ready. Online ordering also eliminates paper waste. Receipts and menus can be made a thing of the past by their digital counterparts. As sustainability gains prominence in today’s world, online ordering cuts down on consumption and doesn’t scrimp on service.
The mass information that can be stored digitally also enables online ordering to become as successful as it is. Customers can track their orders, set preferences and essentially become a ‘regular’ through the website they order from. With advanced suggestion tips, websites can recommend dishes or restaurants to consumers, or simply suggest they order their favorite dish. Payment options are also streamlined in this process. Paying beforehand through credit card is safe and easy, and customer’s can essentially pay in whatever manner they prefer.
The prevalence of online ordering comes with some serious concerns as well. The primary concern is towards the laziness of the customer, having food come to them at a nominal fee rather than getting exercise by seeking out a meal. Online ordering is diverse enough that customers can pick up their food as well, giving them the option to be as active as they wish. The more interesting scenario resulting from online ordering is the rise of a middleman and the relationship between the food service and the restaurant. Food ordering websites can gain a substantial restaurant base with increasing dependency on the service for customers. This can dramatically skew the power relationship, as restaurants come to depend on these services for a steady customer base. When a restaurant comes to depend on a third party ordering service then the service can control the vendor’s actions, forcing it to abide by certain rules or contracts, and increasing fees at will. In this sense a food service can monopolize restaurants over time and seize significant control over the market.
This phenomenon however is no different than those that can occur in nearly every industry. Wal-Mart for example controls such a large share of the market that many of its suppliers are indebted to the company for business. The difference is that companies whose products are sold at Wal-Mart are often multinational corporations, whereas most restaurants are small businesses fighting for their stake in an overcrowded market. These restaurants have little means to protect themselves in such a situation, especially considering a food service website could corner a substantial share of the market. Food order websites simplify our lives and consolidate information for us, but unregulated they could disrupt and manipulate many small businesses.At foodtoeat.com, we try to avoid such a level of control by seeking out new markets and vendors. Our strategy focuses largely on food trucks, which have never worked with a food ordering service before. Taking an alternate approach to this third part scenario, we work alongside these trucks to increase their customer base and reduce long lines. We’ve analyzed the pros and cons of food ordering and we are working on making this process as profitable as possible for every side of the equation. We increase traffic at food trucks and restaurants, we avoid all binding contracts and large overheads, we provide a service to many customers who wouldn’t have the time to take a break for a meal, and we reduce waste through paperless ordering. While still young, we at foodtoeat hope to streamline ordering food without disrupting the community.