Mobile Restaurant Ordering (Finally) Hits The App Store
Wednesday, February 4, 2009; 9:55 PM
In the last week, a pair of new iPhone applications have appeared on the App Store that put the menus of hundreds of restaurants at users' fingertips. Dubbed GrubHub and CityMint, both applications allow users to order food on the go from online menus, buying entrees, appetizers, and drinks on the fly without the hassle of human interaction.
Our appetites were first whetted three weeks ago, when Chipotle released an official app that let users build their burritos from their iPhone. Unfortunately, the application was pulled down only a few hours after release as a throng of users overwhelmed the app's servers. The Chipotle app is still missing in action, but these new offerings should be able to hold us over.
At first glance, the two applications seem pretty similar: they both let users browse through the menus of restaurants in their vicinity, adding food items to a virtual cart until they submit their orders. But a closer inspection reveals a few key differences.
GrubHub seems to focus exclusively on restaurants that deliver, so most of its options offer fare like pizza, Chinese, and Mexican food (of course, there are some exceptions). CityMint offers a catalog of restaurants that deliver, but it has also partnered with hundreds of popular restaurants to allow for pick-up. CityMint CEO Frank Kuo says that the company sifted through Yelp for the most frequently and popular restaurants in each region, seeking out the ones that would integrate with their system.
As far as usability goes, both applications seem to work well. CityMint's interface is more polished and Apple-like, while GrubHub looks more like a web app (though it is native). But GrubHub has the edge on user reviews, which are displayed alongside each restaurant (CityMint doesn't seem to have reviews integrated at all).
In the end, the app you use will likely come down to which one has restaurants available in your area. CityMint has a larger coverage area than GrubHub and includes a wider variety of locations that offer take-out, but it also costs $2.99 (GrubHub is free). We should also note that there are plenty of web-based applications that offer mobile ordering, but the user experience of these is generally not nearly as good as it is on native apps.