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Timing is everything: Web ordering boosts restaurants’ appeal

Timing is everything: Web ordering boosts restaurants’ appeal

A few days ago I discovered there is a stopwatch application on my computer, and on a whim I started timing how long it took me to finish various small tasks. Those included filling an ice tray, feeding my cats, and making a delivery order from a local restaurant. That last one really impressed me, because I ordered through one of the mass online-ordering websites that services New York, and the whole process took fewer than eight seconds.

The last time I placed a delivery order by telephone, it probably didn’t take a lot of time, but it sure felt like it did. Ordering on the phone means you have to say hello, ask if they were delivering, wait on hold, then give your address twice, explain your order, read the credit-card number and then have it all repeated back for confirmation. That isn’t a whole lot of time in the grand scheme of things, but those seconds add up. Don’t even get me started on spelling things. “That’s B as in Bob…”

There are times for spending hours in luxurious restaurants or lingering over a good cup of coffee. But when speed and convenience are the main concerns, 40 seconds can make the difference between “easy” and “bothersome.”

And ordering online from a big list of your neighborhood’s restaurants is really easy. You sign in or enter a ZIP code on the home page, and it lists all the participating restaurants that deliver to your address. Nonparticipating restaurants aren’t listed, so if I know for sure that I want something from one of them, I have to call. But when a craving isn’t strong or it’s one of those “Hmm, what do I want tonight?” kind of days, then I turn to the Internet.

The restaurant pages announce if there are any specials, and whether they’re open and delivering at the moment you check in. The list also is sortable by type of cuisine.

Once you select a restaurant to order from, you click on items from the menu and the site gives you a list of options, like cooking temperature, accompanying vegetable or type of bread. There is also a space to write notes for item-specific requests like, “No pickles” or overall order requests like, “Please send napkins.”

I’m a member of two such sites in my area, and both of them have an option where I can choose to have the site remember my address and credit card number so I don’t have to re-enter them every time. A lot of people don’t like to do that, but I do because it’s easier. That’s pretty much the theme here.

If, like me, you have favorite things you like to order regularly, then it gets really easy. There’s a page for “favorites” where it keeps track of previous orders that you’ve stored, so all you have to do is click “order” next to one of them, and all the work is done. That’s why my last order took only a few seconds. It’s so easy, sometimes I worry that my cat will jump on the keyboard and accidentally order a General Tso’s chicken and a diet soda. But that hasn’t happened yet, and if it does I’ll have a good story to tell, so I figure it’s worth the risk.— [email protected]

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