A taste of technology: Five apps for takeout and delivery
It seems that the more urban your area, the less likely you’re going to actually sit down to eat. Of course, you could be sitting down in your loft, on the subway, or in a business meeting, but rarely in the actual establishment. I’m positive that I’ve had more sit-down meals when I lived in, say, mid-Michigan than when I settled down in the middle of San Francisco. Something about city life puts you in constant motion and slowing down to cook a meal is often an unrealistic goal.
That said, the practicality of having any type of delivery software was initially lost on me. But, the perspective changed for me—and I assume, for millions of others—when smartphones arrived and, shortly after, apps began to rule.
Now takeout and delivery apps are a weekly thing for me. I know others who use these kinds of apps daily.
My consistent go-to takeout and delivery app is GrubHub. Silly name aside, the app is simple, reliable, and thorough. The no-frills approach works like this: Let GrubHub determine your current location, then type in your favorite type of food, and filter choices between delivery and pickup.
Now a veteran of the app scene, GrubHub is still king for a variety of reasons. First, the clean menus are often better than the ones found on the restaurants’ actual sites. Second, adding and removing items is easy, as is attaching little notes—my family is always asking for substitutions to their favorite dishes and we’ve had absolutely no problems.
Lastly, there are hundreds, if not thousands of restaurants to choose from, particularly in metropolitan areas. GrubHub may not be as sexy as some upstarts, like the impressive Seamless, but its longevity means that the developers have perfected the user interface and, more importantly, created the ultimate listing of takeout and delivery options. It’s kind of like comparing Apple iOS Maps to Google Maps: Apple may have more bells and whistles, but certain things, like detailed listings, only come with time.
The Coke to GrubHub’s Pepsi is the takeout and delivery app Eat24. The iPhone/Android app is comparable to GrubHub and, depending on your city, it may offer more than GrubHub. For my money, GrubHub always wins for one reason: choice. Eat24 has more than 20,000 restaurants. GrubHub? Try more than 250,000. Eat24 is no slouch, though, and if you can’t find a favorite joint on one, you will almost certainly find it listed in the other app. Eat24 is also worth mentioning because its always-available chat service gives you an accurate update on your delivery, hence the app’s 24-7 moniker.
Domino's Pizza Hero
A guilty pleasure of mine (as well as some friends) is Domino’s Pizza Hero. Every pizza house seems to have some delivery app—in fact, Domino’s Pizza has a simple, stand-alone delivery app, too—but Domino’s Pizza Hero let’s you actually “make” the pizza.
Taking a page from Cooking Mama’s cookbook, Pizza Hero has you virtually spreading out the dough, pouring the sauce, sprinkling the cheese and choosing the toppings. Watch it go in the salamander oven for a minute and you’re treated to a steaming hot virtual pizza—and an order now button that sends you to delivery and takeout options. It almost got me to order a pizza—I can only imagine how addictive it is for someone who actually likes Domino’s.
As someone who likes to cook as much as eat, Delivery.com actually comes in handy. The app works well for people like myself who are trying to choose from cooking at home, getting cooked food from a grocery or deli, or doing traditional delivery—but not wanting to leave the house for any of them.
Delivery.com’s app blends the results of all three eating options. Look up local venues and you’ll get a nearby Mexican place with fast delivery, an Italian joint known for its spaghetti to-go, and a supermarket carrying great ingredients fitting your palette. For instance, Delivery.com gives me my nearest Whole Foods and its extensive menu shows pizzas made in-house as well as ingredients to make my own meals.
Depending on your area, Delivery.com gives different categories, too, isolating out bakeries, groceries, and caterers. The catering section is the most impressive, as I’m not familiar with another app that gives such precise detail on the major meal providers. I wasn’t brave enough to use an app to cater my last major family event, but it’s nice that one exists.
Finally, despite a low number of restaurants, the aforementioned Seamless is worth a look simply because of its iPad interface. The colorful menu asks you to log in or, if you like, just locate or type in your current location and see what delivery and takeout places are nearest to you. It’s worth becoming a member as Seamless will remember what you like. Eat24 and GrubHub also remember your last order, but Seamless’ easy interface makes it possible to reorder from a list of favorites with a quick front-page tap.
Seamless’ details are pretty impressive. Each restaurant has an original, succinct one sentence description, delivery time range, minimum delivery price, and at least one photo. The restaurant listings can be filtered by those details as well as when they opened and if they are currently offering any deals.
Believe it or not, most takeout and delivery apps still are native to the mobile phone format—that is, the way it looks on the iPhone or the Android phone is the same way it looks on the iPad or Android tablet. You can tell immediately that Seamless was designed for post-tablet users with its big, beautiful food pictures and its large, intuitive layout.
It will be interesting how the rumored iPad Mini ends up changing how takeout and delivery apps are handled, just as the upstart Seamless shows how delivery and takeout apps will look in the iPad age.