With the beginning of September, a scary thought comes to mind. Patio season will end. Eateries and shops will pull back their encroachments onto public sidewalks as the weather takes on a familiar chill. Leaves will change colour and fall from their branches. Meteorologists will forecast the city’s first encounter with snow. Eventually, tables and chairs will be gathered together and put into storage until the next spring.
Interestingly, 15°C seems warm after 6 successive months of frigid winter weather. When the temperature dips below 20°C during the summer months, Ottawa locals threaten to turn on their furnaces.
During the fall and winter seasons, my wife and I find ourselves ordering food “in,” exploiting delivery options from our city’s somewhat diversified restaurant scene. Last winter, we cultivated quite the relationship with staff from the Vietnamese Noodle House (Hu Tieu Mia Ga), which is located at the edge of Chinatown on Preston Street (121).
The noodle house preparing everything in-house and with much care, we ordered in noodle soup once a week using Just-Eat.ca. Owner Binh shares delivery duties with his staff. We met every server. Binh even delivered later orders himself, appearing from time-to-time at our door with a warm smile and piping hot containers of pho or hu tieu noodle soup.
By the spring we noticed the noodle house had disassociated itself from Just-Eat.ca. At first, they set up their own e-commerce solution, hosting a home brewed online ordering system from their website. Then, they went with Menu.ca, a competing online order and delivery service provider like orderit.ca.
While Binh had originally transcribed his entire menu onto Just-Eat.ca, with some eccentricities in the descriptions, we discovered prices were slightly lower when calling in our order by phone. But, like many netizens these days, we rarely have cash on-hand, so are willing to pay for the convenience of secure online transactions with a credit card. Menu-wise, it took some trial and error for me to find my favourite bowl of mi bo kho, a fiery stewed beef noodle bowl.
Nineteen years have passed since actor Sandra Bullock’s played Angela Bennett, playing Wolfenstein, reading HTML, and ordering pizza from her mocked up Mac-like workstation in the movie The Net. Modern cell phones pack more computing power and storage than the desktops showcased in that somewhat paranoid thriller about identify theft.Today, we find people spend an inordinate amount of time with their mobile devices. Since everyone routinely ignores the rule about “tweeting their lunch,” ordering delivery from a website or mobile app has become mainstream. We know people who just carry SIM card-equipped Apple iPad mini tablets that connect them to data-only services on cellular networks.
Four years have passed since Just-Eat Canada entered the market in the National Capital Region with a free pizza promotion that also donated $1.00/order to the Ottawa Food Bank.
However, Ottawa being an early adopter and former “Silicon Valley North,” we have seen online order and delivery start-ups before. In 2000, entrepreneur Stephen Edmonds released AlimentoFoods.com, an e-commerce solution that combined delivering fine foods, fine dining, and regular grocery. Angel investors put in upwards of $100,000 into the now defunct company. Edmonds partnered with vendors like the former Cafe Henri Burger (by legendary Chef Robert Bourassa), Boko Bakery, former Chelsea Smokehouse, and Ottawa’s first fish monger Lapointe Fish. Customers went to the website, placed their orders, indicated their preferred delivery times, and paid a $7.95 delivery charge.
Just-Eat Canada is more of a broker, letting businesses set their own delivery charges. Restaurants routinely establish a threshold for delivery, offering the service only after the purchase value is reached. Some establish “tip” values options on their menus as neither the Just-Eat.ca website nor the mobile app permit tipping at the end of transactions.
Its business model works like this: Just-Eat Canada partners with restaurants; restaurants input their menus; Just-Eat provides an implementation of a secure online transaction system that accepts most major credit cards and online Interac; Just-Eat powers a website and mobile app; restaurants receive orders in real-time; restaurants are responsible for preparing and delivering ordered food; Just-Eat takes a percentage of sales.
For some strange reason Just-Eat Canada is now offering bloggers a stipend ($50) to “test the system.”
Regular users, we happily accepted the offer. Only, we decided to profile more than one order and delivery experience, so supplemented with our own funds.
Firstly, we sampled both eat-in and delivery from Oriental Chu Shing (691 Somerset Street W.), which serves more Southern Chinese cuisine.
Chu Shing: Eat-in
Chu Shing: Order-Out
Secondly, we tried delivery from Ju Xiang Yuan Restaurant (641 Somerset Street W.), which serves more Northern Chinese cuisine.
Ju Xiang Yuan: Order-Out
Experience-wise, the Just-Eat.ca website and app were user friendly enough. Purchase options were available by menu. Charges were clear. You can use your phone’s GPS features or type in your Postal Code. Settings can be stored in a profile associated with an account.
Everything proved intuitive unless you encounter issues entering your gift certificate/purchase code as we did. Using the website to add the voucher to our account was frustrating. Our first code turned out to be nonredeemable. Just-Eat.ca’s online text help service had to walk us through the process of demonstrating our code did not work before issuing us a new one.
Bottom line, we made selections. We paid the balance for our purchases using a Visa credit card. We ate well.
Just-Eat.ca functions as advertised. Though, skimming its competitors’ options, we found all the user interfaces looked alike.
This said, there is one aspect of online ordering that I feel deserves mention. It has something to do with enabling diners to discover another culture’s food in the comfort of their own homes. While most ethnic restaurants seem more than willing to facilitate patrons new to a cuisine, online ordering offers the opportunity to peruse menus with English descriptions. Online ordering systems force restaurants to translate their menus. Afterward, more information via Google is but a click or tap away. As diners, we are not always so fortunate to have a guided tour of a foreign cuisine by a friend or well traveled family member. Despite their best intentions, servers are often too busy to help.
What I would like to see online ordering systems offer more often involves sample images of dishes to go with the descriptions. Web hosting costs are miniscule compared to print costs for physical flyers. Sometimes a picture is really worth a “thousand words.”
Oriental Chu Shing Restaurant
691 Somerset St. West
Ju Xiang Yuan Restaurant
641 Somerset St. West
Tags: Chinatown, Chu Shing, delivery, featured, Just-Eat, online ordering, order in, takeout