Like Food, But Not People? Order Online

For all of us out there who are hungry but antisocial, the New York Times today presents an overview of online food ordering services. The benefits are obvious – it’s fast, (usually) more accurate, you can place an order the day before, and you don’t need cash. Lots of chain restaurants are now offering it (Pizza Hut, Subway, and Papa John’s are some examples), but there are also a few special websites that aggregate menus from multiple restaurants (after the break).

If you’re in college, campusfood.com will let you order online or via text message. Seamlessweb.com is geared more toward professionals and corporate accounts, but for now it only serves a few large cities in the northeast. And delivery.com offers a fairly decent variety of options, at least for the two addresses (in different states) we tested.

Remember, though, that the one thing you can pretty much count on is that these services collect data on you each time you use them. If you’re sensitive about privacy, or just don’t want to trade your demo stats for the convenience of online ordering, you might be better off with that takeout menu you keep in your desk drawer next to the Sharpies and paper clips you’re hoarding.

www.FriesWithThat?.com [New York Times]

(Photo: Getty)

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  1. JRuiz47 says:

    When I was in college at Texas State and working many hours at the campus newspaper, we used CollegeDelivery.com fairly often.

    While the prices were a little steep (no specials and the delivery charge), the service was quick and the food was good (they had nine restaurants then, 13 now). It was just a debate on whether or not we wanted to take a chance at losing our parking to go get food.

    Now that I’m in a much larger San Antonio, I’m wishing there was a delivery service since I do a lot of freelance work from home.

  2. savvy9999 says:

    We use this all the time, but only as a timesaver. Creating a big order for a lunch meeting is a lot easier online than fumbling over everything for 10 minutes on the phone. Email: “Everyone look at this menu pdf and write me back what you want”. Copy, paste, submit, enjoy.

    Accuracy is about the same, IMO. Orders will get screwed up sometimes no matter how you get it there.

  3. Lewis says:

    In NYC Seamlessweb is awesome. We sometimes joke that the food usually comes quicker to our apartment than room service at a hotel.

  4. Parttimesaint says:

    Also in New York: menupages.com

    We use it all the time to find new restaurants.

  5. texasannie says:

    Jason’s Deli has excellent online ordering. The order interface is very thorough and easy to use; every option like type of bread, topping, and side item is easy to select, delete, substitute, etc. You can make special requests and even assign the name of the person who ordered each item to the item so they’re grouped together properly. Not only that, but 4% of your total bill becomes “deli dollars” that you can save up and use toward future purchases. We’re so spoiled by it; the people who work at the one near our house know my husband on sight now when he comes to pick up our order. We could have it delivered, but we don’t want to pay the extra five bucks.

  6. Buran says:

    I use this to order from Pizza Hut.

    I’m hearing-impaired and it’s great. No more struggling to hear someone with a strong accent. No more trying to be understood over lots of background noise. Less screwed-up orders.

    And NO MORE BEING PUT ON HOLD! That’s just plain rude on top of being annoying.

    Why can I still not use a touch-screen kiosk to order at other restaurants, or at drivethroughs? I can buy movie tickets this way, so why can’t restaurants implement this at tables or by replacing menu boards or at least supplementing them?

  7. SadSam says:

    I use on-line ordering whenever I can and wish more companies offered it. My on-line order has never been screwed up, telephone orders get screwed up all the time.

  8. texasannie says:

    Bah, hit submit too soon. My point in all that was that if more restaurants offered online ordering, I would be thrilled. I order takeout and delivery more than I probably should, and I like being able to enter it exactly as I want it, so the reality of my order is more objective and I don’t get put on hold by a harried restaurant host. Those people always seem to have their hands full as it is without having to answer hundreds of phone calls.

  9. hubris says:

    One of the biggest things I miss about Cornell is campusfood.com. So much amazing food, so easy to order and have it delivered.

    Oh, Pita Pit, how I miss you.

  10. samurailynn says:

    I’m all for online food ordering systems. However, I have to say that Pizza Hut has the crappiest online ordering system ever. Every time I try to use their website, it is so slow and buggy that I eventually just get frustrated and call in my order.

  11. BoscoSeven says:

    I think online food ordering is great. I usually don’t get good cell phone service in my room so ordering online is quick and easy. It also is as accurate, if not more accurate, than calling in your order. There is a section where you can write special instructions for your order and you can add or delete any items you want or don’t want. Online food ordering has come a long way. I worked at Papa Gino’s for 4 years and back then they offered online ordering however the way it worked was that someone would order online and then we would get an automated phone call that would say “someone has placed an order on your website.” A lot of them were fake so whenever we heard that we just hung up. Now when you order online I believe an actual ticket pops up. You also have to create a user name and password and give valid contact information to avoid pranks.

  12. I’ve have terrible experiences ordering pizza online, with Papa John’s an New York Pizza Factory. Online orders seem to get sent to the back of the queue, and you’re never quite sure when it’s going to arrive.

  13. anams0184 says:

    I love the online ordering system. Its great as an admin and I have to get catering from resaurants that dont deliever…this idea lets a delivery service pick-up your order for you and bring it to your door-step. its convienent and enjoyable especially in bad weather when you dont wanna go out.

    i’ve used diningin.com for when i’m in Dallas and takeouttaxi.com when here in Houston….i’ve found that takeouttaxi is in a lot of diff. states and cities…so its easier to use most of the time.

  14. SaveMeJeebus says:

    @Buran: Carl’s Junior has electronic ordering kiosks. The restaurant has mostly senior-citizen patrons so the employees have to come out and push the buttons for them until they learn.

    With systems like this, it is utter BS that restaurants can’t offer a running total of calories/fat/etc.

  15. I used to order pizza online until they raised the delivery fee which, as was pointed out here awhile back, does NOT go to the driver.

    Please, raise the price of the food if you must but increasing the cost by $2 at the end with a random fee is not cool.

    The other problem with online ordering is that no one wants to call you and let you know that there were problems with the order or that they’re backed up and it’s going to take 2 hours the few times that’s happened.

  16. Starfury says:

    For something like Pizza or Chinese I would order online and then pick it up to save time. Other food I’ll just go in and order; usually I’m going to eat there.

    There is the other option: Cook your own food, make enough for leftovers, then eat that. Lots cheaper than going out.

  17. wilykat says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Have you done the math recently on delivery fees? Maybe if you live really close to the restaurant it’s not a good deal, but for me, having a pizza delivered saves me about a quarter of a gallon of gas (75 cents or so) and 8-10 minutes of my time, which is certainly worth a dollar.

  18. @wilykat: Except it’s two dollars and it doesn’t go to the driver. So why is it a delivery fee?

  19. Buran says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: I don’t think it’s necessary to completely eliminate human ordertakers, partly for this reason and partly to help the blind.

    The way I see it working is that your order is put into the system directly by the kiosk and you either get an order number on-screen or get a printed receipt. You pay by swiping a credit or debit card.

    The human ordertakers are just doing the same thing, after all. But if you type it in yourself, there’s less chance of someone misunderstanding and entering the wrong thing. The kitchen could still mess up, but this is one less chance for that to happen.

  20. Buran says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: They’ve called me when there was an issue, except for the time when a pizzeria decided to close 2 minutes before my order went in even though the website said they were still open. I filed a complaint with corporate and have a coupon for a free pizza as a result. They do it again, I’ll complain again…

  21. Buran says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Not sure. Maybe to cover the cost of the online ordering system? My local Pizza Hut allows you to select pickup instead, though, which gets rid of the fee…

  22. hoo_foot says:

    Just got a booklet in the mail from one of these services. Most of the participating restaurants are pizza and Chinese places that already offer free delivery. Why anyone would order through a delivery service and pay a surcharge when they could order directly from the restaurant is beyond me.

  23. @Buran: I guess I have to chalk up my experience to local issues.

  24. bnosach says:

    I don’t care about privacy that much. I spend 30 min . on the phone yesterday with T-Mobile CRS trying to change something in my account whereas I can log-in to their website and do in less than 30 seconds. Unfortunately the site was down. So, doing things online saves you a whole lot of time and…stress.

  25. huadpe says:

    I have used alce.ca in montreal with good succcess. They aren’t cheap, but they offer about 100 restaurants for delivery to me (I’m smack in the middle of downtown, at the McGill Campus) many of which otherwise don’t deliver.
    @Rectilinear Propagation: If the delivery company is a 3rd party to the restaurant, a delivery fee makes sense, that’s their source of income. Restaurants offer free delivery because they get the profit on the food, these guys’ profit is the fee minus staff and other expenses. When restaurants charge a delivery fee I generally won’t order from them.

  26. ideagirl says:

    I love campusfood.com. You don’t have to be in college to use it, you just need to live in a college town. They are the only delivery option in my area (except for pizza) and we use them several times a month.

  27. welsey says:

    @ideagirl: Yeah, I’ve used campusfood.com before. It’s pretty good and it was great when this one local pizza place stopped answering calls from my cell phone because we were too annoying when placing orders (and didn’t tip well enough). This same pizza place also never gave you enough or the right dipping sauces when you phoned, but the online form lets you be really specific about what you want. That’s probably the best feature actually – rather than getting around blacklisting.

  28. Eilonwynn says:

    I really, really prefer swiss chalet (canada mostly)’s online ordering system – especially the way you can order for a specific time (ie order at midnight and pick up at 5 pm next week tuesday), and the way they have it set up for office ordering (PERFECT for lan parties – they send an email to everyone you specify, arranging all the food individually – works wonders for friends who are terribly picky eaters)

  29. ChapstickAddict says:

    @omerhi: I too miss the Pita Pit from my college days. I frequently used Lion Menus (www.lionmenus.com) to order delivery when I was too lazy to find the phone number. I think it was created by actual Penn State students. They actually work with the local restaurants and have special deals that you can only get online.

  30. TechnoDestructo says:

    I just wonder if this will lead to a decline in tipping.

    Actually, I’d like to see the whole custom of tipping disappear, but oh no, heaven forbid we actually have to guarantee people a wage, or reimburse them for their vehicle costs!

  31. Triene says:

    I go to college, and campusfood.com is fantastic. It saves me the trouble of having to speak to someone on the phone who doesn’t understand me, or the other way around. It also ensures that my order is placed properly from the beginning; often an incorrect order, I find, is because the person that took the order misheard me or entered it incorrectly.

    It also helps with tipping, because I don’t have to awkwardly fumble with cash, trying to decide what tip to give while the delivery person is standing there.

    As for the custom of tipping, I’d have to agree with Techdestructo’s sentiments.

  32. Trojan69 says:

    I had uniformly excellent experiences ordering Pizza Hut online last year. They always accepted my coupons, the pie was made correctly, and it was delivered in good time.

    BUT…they changed something and now the site will not accept my perfectly valid coupon(s) (identical to the ones I used a year ago (and NOT expired, thank you)). I called and wrote Pizza Hut to please fix, and to date, fuhgeddaboudit.

    Domino’s site is perhaps the worst designed ordering page I have ever encountered on the web. Coupons? Apparently they don’t exist in the Domino’s online universe.

  33. I’ve had problems with all the pizza order online places. For the longest time Papa’s had my address listed as online ordering acceptable and my store as taking online orders … and then every time I tried to do it, a farther-away restaurant would call, saying they don’t deliver to me, and my restaurant doesn’t do online orders. Argh.

    Domino’s EVERY TIME I order the ordering part goes fine, and it tells me (every time) that I have a wait time of 30 or 40 minutes until delivery. And then EVERY TIME the store calls me and informs me they’re running behind and can’t deliver for AN HOUR AND A HALF. Two hours, once! Obviously a problem with the local store, but why isn’t the website reflecting those ridiculously slow delivery times?

    Pizza Hut, sometimes my order just doesn’t go through to the restaurant. Ever.