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Facebook’s ‘Order Food’ feature officially launches across the U.S.

Facebook today formally announced its new feature that allows users to order food from local restaurants using its app. Instead of competing directly with other food ordering services, Facebook is partnering with several industry players on this effort, including EatStreet, Delivery.com, DoorDash, ChowNow, Olo, Zuppler, and Slice. It’s also working with restaurant chains directly, like Jack in the Box, Five Guys, Papa John’s, Wingstop, TGI Friday’s, Denny’s, El Pollo Loco, Chipotle, Jimmy John’s, and Panera.

Users can find the new option “Order Food” in the Explore menu in the Facebook app, where you can then browse area restaurants and click “Start Order” when you know what you want.

Orders can be placed for either takeout or delivery, and if you already have a Delivery.com account, you can use your existing login. If not, you’ll be able to sign up for a Delivery.com account directly in the Facebook app, the company says.

In addition, you’ll be able to read reviews from friends about the restaurant in question, to help you make your decision.

Facebook has been developing a deeper relationship with food ordering businesses for some time. Last fall, it announced a deal with online ordering services Delivery.com and Slice which allowed Facebook users to place orders from supported restaurants through their own Facebook Pages.

Earlier this year, TechCrunch reported this “Order Food” feature was in testing as a new option from within the Explore menu in the app. Facebook, at the time, confirmed it was an expansion of its previous “Order Food” functionality via the Facebook Pages. The idea was to see if adding an entry point through Facebook’s main navigation could increase the usage for the food ordering feature.

The company, however, did not comment on how long the option had been live, or what percentage of Facebook users had it available.

Today, Facebook confirms that the Order Food option has been in testing since last year, and, after adding more partners and responding to user feedback, it’s rolling out across the U.S. to all users on iOS, Android and desktop.

The move to introduce food ordering is one that allows Facebook to keep users inside its app for longer periods, instead of seeing users exit to other apps for common tasks, like ordering a pizza.

The company has been rolling out several other features with that same goal, including things like weather info, instant games, a jobs board, fundraisers, movie listings, booking appointments and getting quotes, and more.

However, “Order Food” is not a direct revenue driver for Facebook. The company confirmed that it doesn’t charge any fees, or share in any portion of the profits from the orders placed via its social network.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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ChowNow, a GrubHub competitor, raises $20 million Series B round

ChowNow, an online food ordering service, has raised a $20 million Series B round led by Catalyst Investors. This round brings ChowNow’s total funding to nearly $40 million.

“We were excited for [Catalyst] to get involved because they were behind Mindbody,” ChowNow CEO Chris Webb told TechCrunch.

Mindbody, a white-label service for health and wellness businesses, went public in 2015. Catalyst was an early investor and top shareholder in the company.

“It’s a different vertical but the commonality is that we’re building software for small businesses,” Webb said. “It seemed like a natural fit.”

ChowNow also recently unveiled its first branded mobile app to help its customers with restaurant discovery. Webb described it as a bit of a matchmaking service between restaurants and customers. He noted how restaurants want to expand and get additional customers, and how customers who make orders via ChowNow want to find other restaurants that use ChowNow.

“The value we are creating is delivering customers to them for the first time,” Webb said. “We will take a finder’s fee but from there on, the restaurant will own that customer.”

That means after the first order via ChowNow’s app, ChowNow will not monetize individual orders. ChowNow prides itself on being different from the likes of GrubHub and Seamless. ChowNow’s flagship service offers restaurants a white-label platform that enables restaurants to own their customer data, and feel confident their customers aren’t constantly fending off menus and discounts from competitors. Unlike its competitors, ChowNow charges an upfront monthly cost of $150/month per location instead of taking a commission on all orders.

Since launching in 2011, ChowNow has brought on more than 8,000 restaurants as customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. This year, ChowNow expects to process $300 million in orders. About half of the orders ChowNow processes are delivery, while the other half are pick-up.

“We do not have our own [delivery] fleet,” Webb said. “We’re just a software company at the end of the day. We have no ambitions to have a delivery fleet at all.”

That’s probably a good move, given that GrubHub is currently in court around its practices of employing delivery drivers as 1099 contractors rather than W-2 employees.

“Yes, our software supports delivery but we have a unique place in the restaurant where we don’t play in the delivery space outright,” Webb said. “We’re also not a traditional marketplace either. Shopify for restaurants is an accurate way to describe us. Restaurants can plug in to our system and integrate it into their delivery backend.”

Featured Image: ChowNow

News Source = techcrunch.com

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