Why UberEATS Is Ruining the Restaurant Experience

Why UberEATS Is Ruining the Restaurant Experience

Growing up in the suburbs of Toronto, we would get dinner delivered ever couple weeks when my parents were too tired or busy to cook.  In those days the dinner options were limited. You either ordered Chinese, or pizza.  Now, thanks to food delivery services like UberEATS, Foodora, and Just Eat, I can have food from any cuisine at my office or doorstep minutes after placing an online order.

It seems like a win-win situation for everyone.  Restaurants expand their reach to customers without having to spend their time on the phone, and customers have access to a wider selection of foods from small family run restaurants as well as the latest trendy spots.  However, any restaurant should give serious consideration on how use of these food services impacts the delivery experience before signing up to participate.

There are three factors to consider when deciding if a food delivery service is appropriate for your business.

  • Quality
  • Presentation
  • Capacity

Quality

When some of my favourite restaurants started to offer delivery service, I was ecstatic. No longer will I have to wait in line for my favourite fired chicken or taco. However, not all meals can hold up well in the time it takes from the restaurant kitchen to the customers’ door.  While the drivers/cyclists may carry the food in insulated bags, if the food is meant to be consumed hot, receiving a lukewarm product is disappointing.  Because we may have prior positive experience from the restaurant, we carry those high expectations over to when we order delivery.  Similarly, a new customer who is ordering based on positive reviews of a restaurant will have high expectations, and failure to meet or exceed those expectations will result in the experience being viewed negatively.

Presentation

The expression “you eat with your eyes first” really captures that idea that your experience with the food starts once you have the plate in front of you.  The other senses (smell, touch, taste, even hearing), only kick in after you’ve first laid eyes on your meal.  So the manner in which the food is presented has a huge impact on your anticipation and expectation of the meal.

In the restaurant a great deal of care may go into ensure the meal is correctly plated.  I have had UberEATS experiences where the food was just thrown into an oversized, Styrofoam clam shell, and after the physical rigours of transit, the food looks like a giant mess.  It was not at all appealing or appetizing.

Capacity

The promise of increasing business through online orders can be very tempting, but not all restaurants can handle the extra business. The kitchens have a fixed rate at which they can prepare food. Other than taking shortcuts, they can’t really increase their capacity to serve.  In order to serve all three types of customers (eat in, pick up, and delivery), restaurants are required to compromise on the experience either through lower quality food, or slower service.

On a number of occasions I have received the incorrect order through these services.  The mistake isn’t due to the capture of the order, which is completed online and sent to the restaurant.  I suspect the problem lies with individual or individuals who are responsible for assembling the order. Due to the time demands, and the large number of orders, it is easy for someone to get confused or forget which items went in which bag.  While it is easy to label these mistakes as human error and blame the individual, I would blame a poorly designed system that places the cognitive and physical demands on the individual, without adequate support.

While food delivery services have made it possible to get any type of food you want, at any time, the potential negative impact on the experience should make restaurants stop and consider before they decide to participate.  Due to the time in transit, the quality of the delivered food may fail to live up to the expectations.  Also hurting the perceived quality of the food is the manner in which it is presented when packaged for delivery.  Finally, the additional business from online delivery can overwhelm the kitchen, resulting on a negative impact on the experience for customers that are eating in, or picking up their food. Ultimately, the decision should be driven by having an understanding of the expectations of the food by the customers, and the business owner.

Daniel Iaboni, is Senior Experience Architect at Akendi, a firm dedicated to creating intentional experiences through end-to-end experience design. To learn more about Akendi or user experience design, visit www.akendi.com.

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