By Mark Falanga
Photo by Mark Turnauckas.
To say the internet has changed our lives is trite at this point, but if you think about it long enough, you’ll come to realize how amazing it truly is. Any piece of information you want is delivered in mere seconds to your fingertips.
But that’s not all it delivers. In fact, it can deliver just about anything to your home. Driving to a video store to rent a movie seems almost archaic now. Netflix has replaced the video store in the 16 years since it first went into service, and can deliver tens of thousands of movies and television shows right to your living room.
The internet can also deliver tickets to any event you want. It’s now the preferred delivery option for Ticketmaster (however despised they may be). You don’t have to worry about the tickets being lost in the mail, or getting stolen. Just print, and you’re good to go!
What all of these things have in common is that that it’s possible for them to be delivered electronically. But what if what you want can’t be delivered electronically? Also, what if that same item is perishable? The only item that fits into this category is food.
Ordering food online is nothing new. In 2001, Papa John’s Pizza was the first major pizza chain to offer online ordering. The online ordering was a hit and grew exponentially year after year. This trend is does not solely exist in the United States either, online ordering accounts for more than half of Domino’s Pizza sales in Western Europe.
So aside from pizza, there wasn’t a whole lot of variety in the online food ordering world in the US in the early half of the last decade. The first website to introduce something a little different was Seamless, which was started in 1999 as a way for corporations to order lunch for their employees. Once it became a hit, it expanded to the public, but it didn’t really become as popular as it is today until ordering via smartphone apps became a trend.
Finding the best and easiest way to get take out was a problem that Chicago natives Mike Evans and Matt Maloney faced back in 2004 when they asked the basic question, “Why, given the available technology on earth, is there not a website that will tell us who delivers?” The result of the question prompted the two to start the online food ordering service called GrubHub.
As their website explains, it started out by them scouring the city’s restaurants by phone to find out who delivered and, when necessary, even visiting the restaurants in person. The business grew from Chicago to San Francisco, and then to Boston by 2011. Today, GrubHub offers online food ordering for more than 20,000 restaurants in 500+ cities.
Here’s how it works. All you have to do is enter your address, and GrubHub will show you which restaurants near you offer pickup or delivery. Once you’ve made your selection, click on the menu of the restaurant, click on the orders that you want, then press “finish ordering.” Follow the rest of the checkout instructions and you’re done.
“The old system of maintaining a drawer of takeout menus was the opposite of efficient (and uses much needed storage space!), and ordering over the phone can often times lead to a miscommunication between the diner and restaurant,” says Abby Hunt, public relations manager and spokesperson for GrubHub. “With GrubHub, diners can order the food they love whenever, wherever, and each order is fully supported by our 24-7 customer service team (via online chat, phone, text or Twitter). We work with the restaurateurs to deliver the best service possible, allowing our restaurants to focus on making the best food possible.”
Looking towards the future, Hunt said the GrubHub would like to keep expanding their existing offering to more diners. One of them is the “Track My Grub” feature, which can tell the diner exactly when the food is being cooked, and where it is while it is being delivered.
What if you prefer to make your own meals? Well, the internet has you covered with sites like FreshDirect and Peapod, which will deliver your groceries to your doorstep if you have a long list. There are also companies like Blue Apron that send particular pre-measured ingredients, spices, and recipe cards so you can cook healthy dinners to impress. All you have to do is follow the directions to make a wholesome meal for yourself and friends.
The variety of services on the internet is no longer limited to imperishable products to buy, now you can transform your home into one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood, you’re only a few clicks away.