When it comes to takeaway and fast-food, the whole point is convenience. Of course you want to eat good food, and of course you want it quickly. You deserve it after all. Can it be on my lap without me having to do anything? Great! Can I do it without even having to talk to someone in the process? Even better! With added convenience for you, however, comes an increasingly unavoidable expense for your local takeaway owner.
Just-Eat arrived on the takeaway scene in the year 2000 and have since expanded rapidly. Like any successful idea, much of its genius lies in its simplicity. By providing online menus for local takeaway restaurants and allowing orders to be placed remotely without any actual conversation with the restaurant, the ordering process is streamlined. The advantages are many, Just-Eat will argue. Up to date, accurate menu information and reduced man hours are undoubtedly positive things. Time spent talking to customers on the telephone, writing down addresses only for delivery drivers to struggle with street names etc can become a thing of the past. Looking outside to other fast-food companies, Domino’s Pizza now offers a ‘live tracking’ feature, ensuring you can keep a hungry eye on your food’s progress from beginning to end, perhaps removing the need to curtain twitch and scramble around for tip money at every passing flash of headlights. But, alas, as is always the case with technology, with the perks come the drawbacks and unfortunately for your local takeaway owner, those drawbacks come in numbers.
Just-Eat, unsurprisingly, charge takeaway restaurants commission on orders processed through the site. Increasingly, these fees add to the running costs of the takeaway itself and, inevitably, those costs are passed on to you the customer in the form of price increases on menu items. As well as reduced profits, takeaway restaurants can look forward to a veritable game of cat and mouse when it comes to the business of promoting their restaurant as a reliable and well regarded one. Load up Just-Eat’s page for your local area and you’ll immediately find the ‘sponsored’ restaurants commandeering the top of the search results page , an easy (paid for) way for local restaurants to ensure their name appears at the top, often despite less than favourable reviews from customers.
Just-Eat run an increasingly strict operation when it comes to the restaurants partnered on their website. Ask any fast-food restaurant owner who has experience with them and they’ll tell a similar story of a friendly, optimistic beginning turning slowly to a strict and often invasive ongoing relationship. As they add more and more restaurants to their site, their ability to control and manipulate those restaurants increases, at great cost to both the restaurants themselves and to you, the end user. Restaurants who attempt to offer reduced prices for customers who visit in person to order their food (entirely outwith the Just-Eat system) are punished and even find their listing removed from the site. Just-Eat branding and stickers are increasingly becoming larger and larger, and restaurants have no choice but to cover the outside of their premises with these posters and stickers, lest they face the ‘consequences’.
Recently, the obligatory 50p added charge for credit or debit card use was banned in the UK. This was quickly (and cynically) replaced by Just-Eat in the form of a 50p ‘service charge’. Added to all of this, the commission rates charged to restaurants has almost doubled from 7% to 13% in just 9 years. This, of course, inevitably leads to takeaway restaurants having no choice but to increase prices in order to cover these ever increasing costs.
If you’re familiar with my cookbooks and their origin, you’ll know that I have much experience with Social Anxiety Disorder, and so the ability to order food online without having to pick up the telephone is undoubtedly very helpful to me and others with similar conditions. As with the recent Scottish government ban on single-use plastic straws, there remains an essential need for an alternative option for many in society who depend on such services and products. With that being said, many takeaway restaurants are now offering online ordering directly through their own website, at reduced cost to both them and you.
So, the next time the takeaway cravings hit, take a minute to check if the restaurant you’re ordering from has their own online ordering system on their own website. Or, if you’re able, give them a call. Your takeaway chef will thank you for it and, in all likelihood, you’ll save yourself some money at the same time.