Now that school is back in session, students and parents alike have to answer the question, “What’s for dinner?” on top of all the other daily to-dos.
I personally love cooking… when I have nothing else to do. But when work is piling up in my Inbox, after-school classes are scattered all over town, and I’m only starting to think about the menu at 5 o’clock? Dinner becomes stressful, and thoughts of takeout dance in my head. It’s not what I want to resort to often, but let’s be real— it happens at least one or two nights a week and it saves me some time getting dinner together. Thankfully, there are no shortage of lovely options in our neighborhood that can make me feel slightly less guilty about it… but still.
Of course, Silicon Valley steps in wherever there’s a pain point (and money opportunity) developing apps that make it easier— both for the restaurant to field orders and handle deliveries and for us busy folks to order and track delivery. Whereas ordering pizza or Chinese used to be the only options near me, now I’ve got a way to have food delivery from any nearby restaurant with a couple of taps.
Below, we’re comparing some of the most popular food delivery apps to see which one should be on your home screen the next time you find yourself in a dinnertime bind.
If you’re not familiar with it, Seamless is kind of the like OG of food delivery services. It’s been around since 1999 and basically pioneered the online food delivery landscape in the U.S. Since then, it’s merged with GrubHub so you can access more restaurants, has expanded to more than 600 U.S. cities, and is available via smartphone and tablet apps.
Appropriately, the interface is pretty seamless to use. You can search by food type or city, and sign your office up, too (it’s a workplace favorite because you can order catering and save personal orders for future use). Availability is a little spotty outside of big cities, but if you live in, or are traveling to any of these places, it’s a godsend. I’m often showing up in a strange city at dinnertime after a day of travel, and it’s so great to flip open an app and see all kinds of options and order away, without having to call a million places to find out “if they deliver.”
It’s free to use the app and you can opt for pick-up if you choose. Be aware: There are often order minimums, and restaurant reviews are hit or miss (just because they deliver doesn’t mean they’re good).
Doordash is a newcomer in the space, and isn’t as big as some of the others, but they’re getting big votes of confidence in the form of LOTS of venture capital funding, thanks to their ability to offer reliable delivery service. Born in a Stanford dorm room, it’s all about data— crunching variables like restaurant popularity, consumer satisfaction, average delivery time and more to create a reliable delivery experience and help restaurants facilitate the complicated process. They call it the “DoorDash Delight” scoring system, and our testers found it to be on point. Available in select cities and growing, the fees vary: The first order is just $1, but averages $4-5 over time.
You probably use Yelp regularly for restaurant reviews, but you may not know that the company now also offers delivery from many of its listings via the Eat24 website and app. The service works similarly to the other apps here, but has a major leg up in terms of restaurant reviews. So if you’re a stickler for good sushi or want to make sure the restaurant really is as gluten-free as it claims to be, this may be the best choice for you. The app is free to use, but individual restaurants may charge an order fee and/or have a delivery minimum.
Already armed with a fleet of drivers, Uber recently decided to add UberEats food delivery to their offerings. It’s still pretty new, so it’s only offered in select cities and there aren’t as many restaurants listed as Seamless or Eat24, but the average wait time is only around 35 minutes and you can track your order in real time, from pick-up to delivery, the same way you’d track your Uber ride. It’s all charged to your Uber account (you can add a tip there, too).
A few downsides: A booking fee to reserve the driver ($5), plus an additional fee on top of that if you’re ordering at rush hour or in a busy area can make dinner cost-prohibitive. Depending on your location, you may have to go out to meet your driver if your door isn’t right at the curb – which is a bummer for apartment dwellers, kids who may be ordering at night, and parents who don’t want to leave little ones inside unsupervised to go get your order.
Comparing delivery apps is tricky. Some are privately traded companies, so they can keep their metrics close to the vest, making it hard to know how many people are using them (“downloads” not being a very good indication of use). Also, fees vary wildly, even within one app: sometimes the minimum order amount puts you over the edge of what you even wanted to pay for dinner, and then there are delivery and other fees. Most of the apps have comparable fees— finding and using discount or coupon codes is key, and avoiding rush hour times can help too. And then there’s timing: our testers found that the apps delivery time estimations were fairly accurate… until a problem arose (usually during a busy time of night). When that happened, calling the restaurant is little help… you’re pretty much stuck waiting for your food for a long period of time (45 minutes is the least amount of time I’ve ever been quoted). Right now there isn’t a clear winner in terms of delivery time— again, they’re all providing a pretty similar service.
In time, one or two of these food delivery apps will win the delivery game. The convenience is so great, for both restauranteurs and consumers alike— it’s a service that can only grow from here. At this point, these apps offer such a similar experience: My recommendation is to look at the apps that offer delivery in your city, then look at the restaurants each app is partnering with— if they choices make your mouth water, then that’s the app you should use.
Have you used any of these food delivery apps? Have you had good experiences, or bad? Let me know in the comments.