Fast food is getting faster. With just a few clicks of the mouse, Jane Cagle can order a small feast for her bosses at Travelocity. The 60-year-old administrative assistant...
FORT WORTH, Texas — Fast food is getting faster.
With just a few clicks of the mouse, Jane Cagle can order a small feast for her bosses at Travelocity.
The 60-year-old administrative assistant overcame her skepticism about the accuracy of Web purchases and now uses the Internet to have food delivered from Jason’s Deli or Corner Bakery three or four times a month.
“For a business setting, online ordering is the only way to go,” she said, adding that virtually all of the company’s administrative assistants go online to buy lunches for meetings.
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More Americans — not just the young techie types who do all their shopping online — are skipping restaurant lines and ordering to-go meals over the Internet.
Up each year
In 2005, the National Restaurant Association reported that about 11 percent of restaurant consumers ordered online. That expanded to 13 percent last year and is expected to reach 18 percent this year.
“Once the kinks have been worked out and the timing is down, I definitely think it’s one of those conveniences that consumers are going to want and start demanding,” said Sheri Daye Scott, editor of QSR, a magazine that tracks the fast-food restaurant industry.
“I see it going well over 50 percent, especially if the text-message ordering takes off,” Scott said.
Pizza companies, viewed by many as pioneers in online meal ordering, are allowing customers to order up a pie after punching a few buttons on their cellphone.
Pizza Hut, based in Dallas, announced recently its customers can send a text-message order to a central reservations number and wait for a return text message to confirm. Papa John’s did the same thing in November.
Industry experts say customers like using the Internet because they find their orders are often more accurate than when they use the phone.
On the phone, “you tend to get people who don’t really know what they’re doing,” said Tonie Steel, who sets up lunch meetings at the Lockheed Martin Recreation Association. “Then you have to call five times to confirm to make sure they get it right.”
Steel said things have worked well with Jason’s Deli.
“Most of the time, the only errors are my typing errors,” she said.
Although online ordering has mainly taken hold in pizza joints and sit-down restaurants, there are signs it could move next into hotels and airports.
The Omni Mandalay Hotel in Las Colinas, Texas, started a test program late last year that allows guests to order room service over the Internet. And you don’t have to pay for the hotel’s in-room Internet service to order.
The Irving, Texas, company hopes to eventually roll out the service to all of its properties.
The Baltimore/Washington International Airport will soon have one of the first airport restaurants that takes online orders.
Silver Diner, with a motif that takes customers back to the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, is looking to be known for 21st-century service, said Mark Russell, director of new-store development for the 16-store chain.
The company would like to have kiosks throughout the terminal as well as in the pilots’ lounge where customers can place orders. Or business travelers might whip out their cellphones as soon as they land and order meals that can be delivered to their gate.
The company recently signed a franchise agreement with Creative Host Services that has Philadelphia next on the expansion list.
Russell said Creative Host is also “very interested” in Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
Although ordering online is pitched as an easy way to get a meal, some think it’s popular for just the opposite reason.
“You’re not rushed,” said Chuck Bush, owner of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, which has three stores in Fort Worth and Denton, Texas. “Your feet are up. I’ve got a little more time to browse.”
As a result, the customer feels more comfortable indulging.
“I may be the not-so-fit-guy who’s embarrassed to order the chips and queso,” Bush said. “It’s kind of discreet.”