In just about every industry, there are always scandals in the early days. In recent months, even as the online ordering industry continues to grow and thrive, online ordering platforms like Eat24 and Seamless have been hit by a series of controversies. We will jump into specific soon, but the details of some of the scandals surrounding online food ordering are grisly. However, that doesn’t mean that online ordering is going anywhere. Here’s a closer look at some of the scandals that have recently hit the online ordering world, as well as an explanation of why online ordering is here to stay despite recent controversy.
Scandal in the Online Ordering Industry
Starting in the fourth quarter of 2015, a handful of scandals surrounding online ordering have hit the news. The most innocuous “scandal” is really a practice that has been going on for a while, though to varying degrees. In some crowded markets like New York City, restaurant owners have been caught listing multiple “ghost” versions of their business on online ordering platforms. This practice is usually employed to avoid the repercussions of negative reviews, “game” systems to boost restaurant exposure, and help restaurant owners feel like they have a leg up on the competition.
While restaurants who are caught have their reputation severely damaged, there usually aren’t too many severe consequences for consumers when restaurants list “ghost” restaurants, other than unnecessary clutter in online ordering search results and business dishonesty. But some “ghost” listings have recently been found to be much more scandalous, and it’s easy to see why when you dig into the details.
In some places, restaurants listed on online ordering apps that might look like “ghosts” aren’t actually related to real restaurants at all. Some enterprising individuals have used online ordering platforms to list delivery options without having any restaurant space to prepare the order, which results in consumer cooking being done in residential kitchens. The idea that your favorite delivery dishes may have been cooked in dirty apartment’s kitchen is unsettling, and there are a host of health related issues that can occur from this practice as well.
Despite Scandal, Online Ordering Grows
However, scandals like these haven’t been enough to slow down the tremendous growth of the online ordering industry in recent months. Restaurants are still using online ordering the right way, without employing “ghosts,” and consumers are still benefiting. Online ordering isn’t going anywhere, even as big scandals hit the news. Here’s why.
1. Online Ordering is Extremely Convenient
When you look at online ordering from a customer perspective, it’s easy to see why the practice has taken off so fast. Ordering your favorite foods for delivery or pick-up from the comfort of your home and the convenience of a mobile device is worlds easier than picking up a telephone and placing an order in person. Now that customers are accustomed to this level of convenience, it’s unlikely that enough people will ever want to “go back” to slow down the growth of online ordering.
2. Online Ordering Helps Restaurants Earn More
Aside from the obvious advantages that online ordering provides to consumers, there is one very big reason why many restaurant owners are likely to defend online ordering and continue supporting the industry despite scandal. Put simply, online ordering helps restaurants earn more. When your business can process more delivery and take-out orders, and make more from every ticket than you would from orders taken over the phone, the profits add up quickly. As long as online ordering continues to help restaurant owners succeed and earn, many leaders in the industry will continue to support ordering platforms.
3. Online Ordering is a Young Industry
Yes, online ordering has recently been plagued by scandal. But some scandal is only natural whenever a new industry takes off. Online ordering is still evolving quickly, and it’s not clear exactly what the industry will look like in the future. Governments may take a role in monitoring “ghost” restaurants that aren’t actually restaurants, or online ordering platforms themselves may develop ways to weed about those who abuse the system more aggressively. In any case, online ordering is so young, it’s much more likely that the industry will continue to evolve and work out the kinks than it is likely that the industry as a whole will fold.
Online Ordering is Here to Stay
Scandals are unfortunate, but at the end of the day, the recent controversy around “ghost” restaurants will likely be a footnote in the longer evolution of the online ordering industry. Online ordering provides so much convenience to customers and can help restaurants boost profits so dramatically that it’s very unlikely to lose enough support to slow down growth. The industry as a whole will get through these types of scandals, and come out the other side stronger. In the meantime, don’t worry. Online ordering isn’t going anywhere.
Rafi Cohen, a graduate of Baruch College & Brooklyn native is the Co-Founder @ Orders2me, an online ordering platform that gives restaurant owners all the features they need to grow their business in the digital age.
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