Online food ordering

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Online food ordering is the process of food delivery or takeout from a local restaurants or food cooperative through a web page or app. Much like ordering consumer goods online, many of these services allow customers to keep accounts with them in order to make frequent ordering convenient. A customer will search for a favorite restaurant, usually filtered via type of cuisine and choose from available items, and choose delivery or pick-up. Payment can be amongst others either by credit card, PayPal or cash, with the restaurant returning a percentage to the online food company.

In May 2015, Eric Kim, a contributing writer for TechCrunch and CEO of Rushorder, reported that "of the $70 billion [takeout and delivery market], only about $9 billion (roughly 13 percent) is online."[1][2] However, in China, online food delivery services are the one of the fastest and most frequently used services, especially in tier 1 and 2 cities, growing 23% in 2017.[3]

Service types[edit]

A man and a Starship Technologies delivery robot waiting at a pedestrian crossing in Redwood City, California


The preexisting delivery infrastructure of these franchises was well suited for an online ordering system, so much so that, in 2008, Papa John's International announced that its online sales were growing on average more than 50 percent each year and neared $400 million in 2007 alone.[4]

Local companies have teamed up with e-commerce companies to make ordering quicker and more precise. Annie Maver, director of operations for The Original Pizza Pan, Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio comments that "the system is good for customers who don't speak English."[5]

Some restaurants have adopted online ordering despite their lack of delivery systems, using it to manage pick-up orders or to take reservations.


Independent online food ordering companies offer three solutions. One is a software service whereby restaurants purchase database and account management software from the company and manage the online ordering themselves. The second solution is a Web-based service whereby restaurants sign contracts with an online food ordering website that may handle orders from many restaurants in a regional or national area. The third is where an independent create and offer foods, meals or kits via their website which are then directly sent to consumers.

One difference between the systems is how the online menu is created and later updated. Managed services do this via phone or email, while unmanaged services require the customer to do it. Some websites use wizards to find the best-suited menu for the customer.

Food cooperatives[edit]

Some food cooperatives like Macomb Co-op allow members to place orders of locally grown and/or produced food online and pick up and pay for their orders at a central location.[6]

Mobile apps[edit]

Many restaurants offer the technology to place an order with a mobile app and may offer a discount or bonus item when the order is placed.


The first online food order was a pizza from Pizza Hut in 1994.[7][8]

This is a picture from a 2018 Pizza Hut pizza box, which describes the first online food sale.

The first online food ordering service, World Wide Waiter (now known as, was founded in 1995.[9] The site originally serviced only northern California, later expanding to several additional cities in the United States.[10]

During the dotcom boom, startups like Webvan, HomeGrocer, and Kozmo started online grocery delivery, but ended up closing in 2001 after the dotcom crash. Seamless was also founded during this time.

GrubHub was founded in 2004. By the late 2000s, major pizza chains had created their own mobile applications and started doing 20-30% of their business online.[11]

With increased smartphone penetration, and the growth of both Uber and the sharing economy, food delivery startups started to receive more attention. Instacart was founded in 2012.[12] In 2013, Seamless and Grubhub merged.[13] By 2015, online ordering began overtaking phone ordering.[14]

As of September 2016, online delivery accounted for about 3 percent of the 61 billion U.S. restaurant transactions.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kim, Eric (2015-03-30). "A Secular Shift To Online Food Ordering". The RushOrder Blog. Retrieved 2017-08-17.
  2. ^ Kim, Eric (2015-05-07). "A Secular Shift To Online Food Ordering". TechCrunch.
  3. ^ "China's food delivery market grows 23% in 2017". China Daily. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  4. ^ Associated Press. "Papa John's hits online ordering milestone." 5 May 2008.
  5. ^ Soder, Chuck. "Online Ordering System Will Get Bigger Slice of Case Students' Pie." Crane's Cleveland Business News. 14 May 2007.
  6. ^ Kauffman, Jonathan (March 31, 2017). "The rise of the modern food cooperative". San Francisco, CA.
  7. ^ "Pizza Hut Tells Twitter It Made The First Online Sale In 1994". Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  8. ^ "Hobbes' Internet Timeline 25". Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  9. ^ "How to Make Lunch an Adventure". Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  10. ^ "Restaurant Review: Dosas and samosas". Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  11. ^ "Why Pizza Giants Want Customers to Click, Not Call, for Delivery". Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  12. ^ "Delivery Start-Ups Are Back Like It's 1999". The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  13. ^ Oremus, Will (May 20, 2013). "GrubHub-Seamless Merger a Boon for Consumers Who Could Never Recall Which Was Which". Slate. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  14. ^ "Online food delivery ordering is about to overtake phone ordering in the US - Quartz". Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  15. ^ "Restaurant food delivery heating up". Retrieved January 10, 2016.