How technology is feeding us.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: you’re nearing the end of an exhausting and mentally taxing day and you've realized you barely ate anything all day. Now you’re dreading the idea of going home and making dinner.
You look sadly at the office fridge, maybe peer into the freezer, then flip open your laptop and begin pursuing options for your favourite restaurants. Or, if you’re feeling particularly sedentary, you search for restaurants that have signed up to participate in an online delivery program.
Sound like something you’ve done? Me too—and we’re not alone.
Like so many other things, the Internet and technology are changing the way that we think about food. As a result, the online food delivery and reservations industry has exploded, with over $1 billion invested back in 2014 alone.
Until recent years our options for ordering food and dining out were pretty limited. If we wanted to order in there were only a few good Chinese places to choose from, some pizza places and maybe an outlier of some sort—if you got lucky. And if you wanted to eat out, you had to make a list of restaurants where you wanted to eat, then call around by phone to see if they had any available tables.
However, with the introduction of software designed to help accelerate the delivery and booking process, we’re able to get more food options and faster reservations than ever before.
This is a monstrous topic, and one which will certainly be hotly-debated as the trend towards convenience increases. Here are a few ways that this shift has begun to change the way we think about food, and consume it.
Convenience is Key
As we work longer hours and put more of our emotional energy into our careers, it can be easy to feel like preparing dinner is just one more thing keeping us from sitting down and relaxing for a few minutes.
Not only that, but in areas like Winnipeg that can be prone to severe and unforgiving weather, the idea of getting in the car to go to a supermarket or lacing up your Sorels for a brutal walk to the local grocery store makes online delivery a boon. The option to have your favourite restaurant meal rushed to wherever you're working can make a popular and profitable service.
That’s what the startup whizkids at Skip The Dishes were banking on when they launched back in 2013.
Skip The Dishes, in case you haven’t heard of them or used their service, is a Winnipeg-based technology company whose software specializes in restaurant delivery. The company has exploded in popularity and currently operates in multiple Canadian cities with further expansion happening into the United States.
Essentially the service works like this: you log in and choose from a variety of participating restaurants, which can range from Ethiopian to Thai to Greek and more. The order gets sent to the restaurant, a courier picks it up and it gets delivered right to your door. You get a wide variety of great options quickly and at very little effort; all without having to pull on multiple layers to do it.
Better Results, Faster
On the other side of the coin are services like OpenTable, which allow diners to scroll through a list of participating restaurants in their city to check for available reservation times and book them online.
Restaurants can sign up and post their available times, rather than the customer having to try and find that information for themselves.
In the past we would wait until a restaurant was open, call them, ask about available dates and times, then wait on hold and hope that we could get a spot. If no times were available, we had to repeat the whole process somewhere else. How time-consuming!
These days, new innovations like OpenTable allow us to easily and quickly book a reservation whenever we want.
Consumers Making Informed Choices
If there’s anything that has emerged in the post-Google economy it’s that consumers want to feel like they have always made the most well-researched and well-informed decision possible. If you’ve ever spent hours googling “best yoga pants” or “best flat screen TV” before making a purchase then you understand what I mean.
Services like Skip The Dishes and OpenTable capitalize on our obsession with having "the best" by prominently displaying information about the restaurants on their main search page.
Some things you tend to find on sites like these are:
● Price (usually a $ – $$$$ range)
● Overall rating (usually 1-5 stars)
● Customer reviews (A key component to decision-making)
This information, which is readily available to us at-a-glance, helps give us the feeling that we’ve made the right choice. That feeling pings into the reward and pleasure centres of our brains and makes us feel good. Genius.
Our Continued Obsession with Control
The final point (and my personal favourite) about these services is that it allows us to track and control our time like never before.
Skip The Dishes, for example, uses an algorithm-based network to calculate the estimated time for delivery. Once you’ve ordered, it provides you with a screen and progress bar which indicates the status of your order. You can watch casually (or obsessively) as the little progress bar moves its way from “Confirmed at Restaurant” to “Order Delivered” and all of the steps in-between.
This “gamification” of the food services industry has to be one of the most fascinating elements of this tech trend. Not only are services like Skip providing us with an easy and accessible way to order food, they’re also turning what used to be a dull and somewhat annoying process into a fun game of “waiting it out.”
What’s most impressive about the introduction of services like Skip The Dishes and OpenTable is their ability to help us save time. No more flipping through phone books, scrolling through web searches, calling around and wasting our time. These disruptions in the restaurant industry are allowing us to spend more time focusing on the things that matter more to us: getting our work completed, spending time together or even just binge-watching the newest season of House of Cards.
What's your favourite meal ordering app to keep you fuelled at work? Let us know in the comments below.