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Doorstep Delivery

Written By Scott Joseph On July 12, 2010

But yet, we are talking about technology. Even worse, we’re talking about humans working with it, so things can go wrong. And they sure did when I gave the service a try recently.

doorstepThere have been several attempts over the years to offer an aggregated delivery service among restaurants that don’t offer their own delivery option. They all failed and fairly quickly. So I was intrigued that the latest operation to offer delivery services from multiple restaurants, Doorstep Delivery, has lasted a couple of years, if not longer.

One of the reasons may be that technology finally caught up with the concept. What was missing for the others that tried before was the proliferation of the Internet, broadband connection and the knowledge of the consumers to use them. It seems odd now, but the high-speed point-and-click mentality we now take for granted is just a few years old. The delivery services in the past printed booklets that featured pages of participating restaurants and the menus they offered for takeout. The customer had to call the phone number and place an order with a live person. Menus would be out of date, the participating restaurants had ceased to participate, or any other number of things made it a frustrating procedure.

Doorstep Delivery is Web site based at doorstepdelivery.net. After entering your ZIP code, the site will display the restaurants that are available in your area. Click on a restaurant that sounds interesting and you’ll be taken to a page with that restaurant’s menu. The descriptions are clear and self-explanatory. And after you click on an item you may be taken to another page to finish the order. For example, click on the 6-ounce filet mignon in the Spice Modern menu and you’ll be asked to check a box indicating the doneness you would prefer. You’ll also be asked if you’d like to stuff the filet with blue cheese for an additional charge. Even if there aren’t logical questions that a “live” server would ask, you can opt to leave a not for the order: “Extra pepper, please,” or whatever.

One interesting feature is that the site will not let you order from a restaurant that is not yet serving. Take that filet from Spice Modern, for example. Spice offers delivery at lunch time, but the steaks are not available until the dinner hours. So if it’s noon and you select a steak, you’ll receive a pop-up note telling you what time the steak is available. But all is not lost: if you really want a steak from Spice Modern, you can ask to order in advance and have it delivered that evening. A lot of thought went into making the Web site user friendly.

But yet, we are talking about technology. Even worse, we’re talking about humans working with it, so things can go wrong. And they sure did when I gave the service a try recently.

I called up the Web site and selected Kabbab House, a restaurant I was unfamiliar with. I selected the kofta kabbab and the lamb tagine. As you place your order, a running tab shows the subtotal plus the delivery charge. For my ZIP code, Kabbab House requires a $12.50 minimum order and a delivery charge of $3.99. I was easily over the minimum, and the delivery charge seemed fair.

I clicked the button to checkout and was taken to a screen where I could enter my contact info and credit card number. I was told it would take about 45 minutes, which seemed reasonable. I completed the order and clicked finish.
A few minutes later I received a call from someone at Doorstep Delivery. The restaurant informs them that they are out of kofta kabbab, and would I like to make another selection. I choose beef instead.

An hour later, I receive another call. The food is just now leaving the restaurant, she told me. She wanted me to know this, she said, so I wouldn’t think my kabbab and tagine were out driving around the county all this time. I told her I appreciated the call, but it was taking quite a bit longer than was promised. The restaurant was extremely busy, she told me. Too busy to complete an order than was entered an hour and 10 minutes ago?

Another 30 minutes passed — or roughly the amount of time it would have taken me to drive from my home in downtown Orlando to the restaurant on Hiawassee Road and back — before the food was finally delivered to my doorstep.

Some kinks, apparently, still need to be worked out.

As for the food, I wish I could tell you it was worth the wait. The kabba was dry and tough and the tagine was fatty and flavorless. I don’t think, however, that the quality of the food was a result of the delivery delay. It just wasn’t very good food to begin with.

Although I had some problems with the use of Doorstep Delivery, I think it has a future. If they can work on the speed of delivery — kind of an important thing for this type of service — and improve communication between the Doorstep site and the restaurant’s, more people will opt to use this handy service. As long as they’re not dying of starvation when they start the process.

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