What Consumers Expect From A Food Delivery App?

Zomato is cutting 300 jobs. Dazo has shut down. Tinyowl is laying off employees. Spoonjoy is scaling back operations.

It doesn’t seem like a good time for food delivery apps (I am purposely staying away from the much debated term, “food tech”).

As someone who has spent tens of thousands of rupees over the past few months across most of the major food delivery apps as a regular customer, I hope this post helps these companies get a glimpse into what a regular customer expects while using such apps.ID Special Foods

#1: Less is more. Consider the paradox of choice

Whenever I open Swiggy, I spend around 20 minutes trying to figure out what to order. Sometimes, the sheer volume of options gets overwhelming and I end up choosing to go out and eat from a nearby restaurant.

The beauty of Dazo when they launched (earlier Tapcibo) was that they had curated meals. It didn’t take me much time to order food. In fact, I was so happy with the curated selection, I converted almost the entire office to Dazo users. It became the default app for ordering food in our office.

However, Dazo started losing its curation focus and started adding more food choices. Last time I checked before it shut down, it had gone from curated 4 or 5 meals to at least 75 options across three different tabs.

Less is more.

Give us a curated choice of food. Maybe ask some questions about our food preferences while setting up the app and show recommendations based on that. For e.g. I always order rice and some non-veg curry. If the app knew that, it could help me significantly reduce the mental strain of choosing what to eat.

#2: Delivery time matters – especially during lunch

The sooner you can deliver lunch, the better it is. Most of the time, we end up ordering when we feel hungry. So making sure that the delivery is fast is very important.

Delivery in under 30 minutes is great. 45 minutes is acceptable. 1 hour or more is going to be a stretch.

#3: Use GPS location instead of having to explain the route

Being in Bangalore, it’s sometimes difficult to navigate people to our place, especially if you don’t live in one of those fancy apartments. This becomes all the more difficult if you can’t speak the local language.

Unless the delivery boy has come to my place several times, I receive a call from them every time I place an order asking where my house is located.

Most apps require location to show the restaurants available. Why not use the location to deliver the food?

#4: If you are collecting payments upfront, ensure that your listed price matches that of the restaurant

This has happened a number of times.

I place an order. Delivery boy picks up the food. Asks me if I paid online and then asks me to pay the balance amount because the restaurant has increased its price.

Interestingly, I never had to pay the difference. The company has always picked up tab for the difference. But it involves uncomfortable conversation where the delivery boy has to make a couple of calls and then say it’s OK, I don’t need to pay anything more.

Ensure that the prices you mention in your app is reflective of the restaurants price. At least, mention when the price was last updated.

I can understand customer centric practices where you take the hit. But as a loyal customer, I do not feel right about it.

#5: In-house kitchens are preferred for lunch

While most of us don’t mind eating out from restaurants once in a while, regular order from restaurants is not something that we look forward to.

That’s where Dazo was so great in the beginning. They used to have in-house/home-made food at affordable rates. The portion was good and the quality of the food was also nice.

We’d also prefer to have separate apps/tabs for homemade food and restaurant food if you have a hybrid model.

#6: Give consumers more options when you are running a subscription business

I tried out for a month a salad subscription. While it was good in the beginning, they sometimes ended up giving burgers for lunch instead of salads.

Also, since the menu was random each day, there was no way to say no if a certain day’s food was not to your liking.

We would have continued the salad subscription for a couple of months at least if they had given us a set of options to cycle through instead of their own selection (for e.g. I do not like pasta related salads; so let me opt out of those).

#7: Don’t assume that slowly reducing the quantity of food over time will go unnoticed

I remember this tea shop vendor near my house. When he started operations, he used to give really big vada (South Indian dish) with a very small hole in the middle. Couple of months later, the size of the vada came down and the size of the hole increased.

It was obvious. He assumed that people would be OK with the change or it would go unnoticed. Well, it’s not Facebook feed for people to forget how it looked like when a change is rolled out- it’s food!

Couple of subscription services I have seen use the same tactic. They reduce the quantity of food delivered to increase profits.

Even if our eyes get deceived, our body’s natural alert mechanism (hunger), will detect this.

#8: Delivery charges are OK

Your business needs money to survive. We understand that. It’s OK to charge a nominal delivery fee.

There’s a lot of debate with India being a price conscious nation and that we are not willing to pay for delivery. I doubt the unwillingness to pay extra because most people pay exorbitant rates at movie theatres for popcorns and soda.

At some point when the venture funds run out, you’ll need to start charging for deliveries to make your business viable. So might as well target people who’d be willing to pay for it from the beginning.

I have seen order sheets filled with orders as low as Rs 30 (when Swiggy did not have a minimum).

#9: Club orders and deliver them together

There have been many instances where I order for me and a couple of my colleagues, food for most people come in one batch, and we have to wait for a long time for the next part of the order to come in (often times by another delivery boy).

This happens with aggregators that allow selection of food from multiple outlets in a single order.

As much as possible, club orders and deliver them in one go. This also means less time spent on the phone guiding the delivery boy or waiting in the lobby to collect orders.

#10: Automated recurring orders

Sometimes, due to work, we’ll forget to order lunch on time. It would be great if the food ordering app has a feature where we can set a predefined menu and kitchen preference for automated orders.

At the predefined time, the app shows a notification and allows us to change the order if required. Else, it goes through and we get the food delivered on time.

Food delivery apps are great. The convenience they have brought to consumers is unparalleled. Share with me your thoughts on what other things food delivery apps can do to create a stellar customer experience.

What do you expect from a food app?

[About the author: Adarsh Thampy is the co-founder and CEO of the marketing automation platform for WordPress, LeadFerry. You can connect with him on Twitter @conversionchamp.]

29 comments

  • What readers expect from an article on new-age industries?

    Certainly not the content that a 10 year old would write stating the obvious. Either the writer has limited understanding of evolution of ventures or just wanted to write for the heck of it.

    Come on, you can’t be putting out such basic content on platforms such as this.

  • Rahul,

    Appreciate your comments.

    As the title clearly states, this is not a post that’s written with cutting edge technologies or business ideas in mind.

    As someone who used to spend a minimum of Rs 10K per month on food ordering for the past 4-5 months, this is a reflection of what most of us would expect when using such an app.

    Some might be obvious for certain people- but not always. If it was, some of the issues mentioned above wouldn’t have happened.

  • A very pertinent post which could actually save aome major marketing dollars for food apps. As someone who faced pretty much the same issues as a customer it is surprising that these apps which hire stellar talent at incredible salaries fail to account for the basics.

    Having read a user comment about the simplicity of the post, I must confess that this shows what’s troubling about tech and startups. When did complex become good business or communication? Do smart people only understand really obtuse references and convoluted statements that reiterate information in an unengaging manner that makes an informed individual want to impact his skull with remarkably blunt objects?

    Simple and straightforward gets ideas across. We are not here to win the Man Booker after all – just make sense of business.

  • My limited point is: Why these so called ‘Food Tech’ startups treat App as their ‘Product’. For God sake treat ‘Food’ as your product. App is an enablement platform.

  • Holachef looks good. However, I have not used them. So cannot comment on whether it works as a regular food delivery app.

  • Nice info, spot on about recurring delivery 🙂 Also sometimes we don’t have cash and we have a card, and the online site keeps asking us to try later due to some technical glitch. We should be able to still go ahead and order and opt for a pay by card ,(Card on delivery) or call them and opt for card payment at doorstep. Just saying.

  • Well written Adarsh. Being in food delivery space this gives us a clear sign what customers expect and we at therunawaychef.com is committed to bring the change people want.

  • Thanks for adding such effective strategic points.
    I want to ask further that, how these food apps deals with the issues in case the ordered food item is prepared and the customer cancels the order? Also the case in the cab services and the other services which reaches your doorsteps and get cancelled by the customer?

  • Aman,

    Unfortunately, I have no visibility into how food delivery apps handle order cancellation. The only time I had to cancel an order was when I paid and the delivery boy called to inform me that the shop was closed. So the money got credited to my wallet.

    There was another instance when I wanted to cancel the order as something urgent came up and I had to leave the house. However, the delivery boy said order cancellation is not possible. I always pay by credit card up front, so not sure how cash on delivery payments can be handled in such situations.

    From a custom POV, I think it would be fair if cancellation is accepted before the order is placed with the restaurant or at any point, if there was an error from the food delivery app side (There has been couple of instances when I order dish A and I got dish B).

  • Abhiram,

    Thanks for taking note.

    Took a look at your website. I am guessing you have an in-house kitchen unlike most aggregators.

    The pricing is also a bit on the higher side for regular orders. I understand that quality ingredients costs money- but for regular orders, spending Rs 200 for a meal does not go well (at least when you do the mental accounting).

    From what might work for me, include low cost options also so that I can keep ordering from you and not just when I feel like splurging.

  • Abhijeet,

    Most food delivery apps follow the aggregation model. That’s something that’s easily scalable when compared to having in-house kitchen.

    Think of how fast Uber could have grown if they had owned the inventory.

    It’s just the business model they follow. Even Faasos which had their own kitchen model has shifted to a hybrid model now.

  • Amritha,

    Card on delivery is a great option if online card payment fails. I have seen pizza joints do this. However not sure what the economies of ensuring every delivery boy has a EDC machine is.

  • Thanks for response Adarsh,
    I agree to your point, there is a constant debate between Aggregation & Ownership Read (Uber/Ola vs Meru debate). I come from Taxi aggregation background, so I understand there is much more to this model than ‘Profitability’. It has essentially changed the way we commute in a city.
    But again for ‘Food-tech delivery Start-Up’ most important thing is ‘Unit Economics’. Unfortunately numbers are not adding up towards ‘Profitability’. I once had a discussion with one of the ‘Product Managers’ he said his delivery guys are delivering one parcel in one trip. If utilization don’t increase there is no way they can be close to being ‘Profitable’.
    My personal assesment is in the long run ‘Full Stack'(Amusing terms these days) food tech player would survive. I understand there will be limitation in terms of Scale but pure play ‘profit terms’ they would stay.
    But again ‘Get your basics right’ Treat ‘Food as your product’ 🙂

  • Hey Admin, It was the nice article. But still I think, are we not expecting too much from them for the same price what we use to pay few months back to the restaurant. I still remember calling and placing the order over phone and then sometimes waiting for more than one hour only to listen nothing from a delivery boy. Ha ha. Now atleast these guys gives us much needed convenience and are always on their toes to serve us in the best possible manner. Always ready to hear us for anything and everything. No need to call restaurant, follow ups, even online payment facility has saved me so many times from being starved. And all we are getting at the same price.

    I am not from Banglore so not aware abt Swiggy and Dazo but I regularly use fooddarbaar to fulfill my tastebuds. And they are super cool everytime.

  • Great post. Personally I spend about an hour a day commenting on other people’s blogs, and I must say I think it’s had a big impact on my own blog. I mean, I get around 17 comments per post on average, so I’m really pleased with that visit my blog http://goyocash.blogspot.com/

  • Vishwas,

    In the long run, we don’t really know which will work from a business stand point as unit economics for food delivery can be a bit tricky.

    However, from a user POV, home cooked meals (Or an aggregator of home cooked meals), will help serve regular customers better. Think of it as a tiffin service.

    For people who order once or twice in a week, regular aggregation model should be OK.

  • Good points from customer’s point of view. Any thoughts on how a food delivery app should treat restaurants? I being an owner of a restaurant know how blind these apps are towards restaurants. For example, if restaurant is accepting COD and get a fake order, the app company simply refuse to take the responsibility and restaurant has to bear the cost. Same way, if restaurant start preparing the food and then get to know that order is being cancelled due to some reason, again the restaurant has to bear the loss. Once the app stop giving discount (the main reason why people use their services in India) the pressure is put on the restaurant to give the discount from their own pocket and that is one of the reason for your point 7 above (big hole in vada). The companies with lots of funding acquire small companies, take control of the market and dictate their terms.

    There are lots more a restaurant has to face so I think we should think from this angle as well as all these problems in long run will either increase the price or lower the quantity and quality.

  • A very detailed piece. However, I would like to vouch for my friend’s startup here @Baba Fattoosh (http://babafattoosh.com) who are doing pretty decently in Bangalore. They are serving around Marathahalli and soon starting with Whitefield and Domlur.

    If you re craving for Home styled cooked meals Babafatoosh.com is the place for you.

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