Monday, February 07, 2005

Online ordering a hassle?

Warning: Rant to follow.

When my friends and I get hungry, we go to Ugrub to find something to eat.

The one thing that bugs me about Ugrub is their motto. Written in big bold letters across the top of their site is: No online ordering. No hassle.

What the heck does that mean? When did the ability to shop online become such a hassle? Isn't one of the best things about E-Commerce its hassle-free nature?

What I think Ugrub means to say, is that not providing the ability to order online is less of a hassle for them. ;-)

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, my roommate and I used to order pizza online. We'd be sitting next to each other on the couch watching TV, when one of us would IM the other:

(14:15:35) UofM Adam: wanna order pizza?
(14:15:38) evb80: sure
(14:15:45) UofM Adam: half cheese half pepperoni?
(14:15:48) evb80: sure

Then I'd alt-tab back to my web browser, click a couple of times, and 30 minutes later the pizza would be at our door.

Hassle? Not so much.


Anonymous said...

Clearly having the 'option' to order online couldn't be a bad thing. But we discovered that most websites that feature restuarant menus went into online ordering because they needed a way to get paid--those sites charge their restaurants a percentage of the total charge for an order that was placed online--and not because it was the most convenient. Most (but definitely not all) people would rather pick up the phone and call. Here is why:
- Clicking little check boxes and typing in descriptions so they get the toppings right on our pizza got complicated fast-- we like to see the menu the way the restaurant intended, not some generic HTML form.
- Restaurants that were out of stuff end up calling back to let you know your order couldn't be completed, so you might as well have just called them in the first place. Plus nothing is worse then hitting that submit button and not knowing if your order went through, and if it *really* is going to show up at your door in the next 30 minutes.
- Finally, we don't like the idea of being tethered to the computer whenever you want to order food.The 1-800-59-UGRUB phone number lets you use one number to be connected to any restaurant on campus by just saying its name, so you don't have to go online or be at home to order--you can be walking back from class, on the way to a friends house, or satisfying the craving on the way back from the bar.

From a business standpoint, generally restaurants don't like online ordering sites. It doesn't increase their total sales, but instead forces a change in their normal flow of operations. Orders through Ugrub come in through the telephone, so it requires no change in how they operate. And yes, it is definitely less of a hassle for us. But it allows for a) faster expansion, and b) happier restaurants, which both lead to the ability to feature a larger selection of restaurants on Ugrub.

If in the future more people request online ordering, we'll definitely do it, but so far people still seem to prefer to call rather than click!

Thanks for the great feedback,

Scott Meves
Ugrub LLC
UM class of 2004
email: scott AT

adamjh said...

Hey Scott! Thanks for posting!

I'm definitely on board with your decision not to try to attempt to provide online ordering. It would almost certainly be doomed to fail, for all the reasons you listed and more.

The truth is that my roommate Eric and I are one of the relatively few consumers that order food online. We also choose to IM rather than turn our heads and talk like normal human beings (but hey, that'd require pausing the TiVo, right?). I speculate this, and the many other reasons you listed contributed to's failure during the dot-com (or "dot-bomb") era. Hmm.. I wonder how much the Food Network paid them for the domain..

So.. perhaps not enough of us, as consumers, are simply not ready to order food online. Or perhaps the restaurant owners among us are not ready to sell food online.

Remember when sold books online.. before they (and others) expanded into, let's say, clothing? Was it because purchasing clothing online was a hassle? What if it doesn't fit? What if they're out of the right size? What about the unnecessary commission paid to the referring site?

Or.. was it just because we weren't ready to buy clothes online, and they weren't ready to sell clothes online at the time? It's certainly become profitable to do so now.. So has it become less of a hassle, or was it never really a hassle to begin with, or.. was it both?

Anyway! My point is that "No online ordering. No hassle." might not be the best motto for your service.. since buying things online isn't as horrible as you make it out to be. Plus, it reminds me of David Spade as the "no" guy in those annoying Capital One credit card comercials. ;-) NO NO NO NO NO.

If the ability to order via the 800 number is your biggest value-add, why not try something like "Anywhere. Anytime." .. though I'm sure we can do better than that.. "Ugrub. It's everywhere you want to be." .. wait, no, that's taken as well. Well, how about we hold a contest? "Come up with our new YES motto, win a free Ugrub Nalgene!"

Okay.. it's been a long day.