Amazon.com already helped us order lunch in July, but back then, we were forced to pick up our food at the local BBQ joint because Amazon did not offer a delivery option. First world problems, I know.
That all changed this week when Amazon rolled out a food delivery option in Seattle via its Amazon Local service. Given our track record for testing online food delivery services, you probably can guess how we ordered lunch for our weekly team meeting yesterday.
Compared to the other services we’ve tried, the Amazon experience was overall smooth and seamless — ordering online was a breeze, and our food showed up on time and hot.
It’s important to note that Amazon does not actually deliver the food — the restaurants themselves handle that. Amazon is only responsible for the online ordering aspect.
Here’s how it works:
You can access the Amazon delivery options by going to local.amazon.com and clicking on the “Takeout & Delivery” tab, which will take you to the landing page above (or use the Amazon Local mobile app).
From there, I entered my address and Amazon showed me restaurant choices. There were only 15 places that could deliver food — compared to 140 offering only take-out — but I had to wait until each restaurant opened before placing an order. Having the option to schedule an order for later would have been nice — Caviar does this, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of that service.
Unfortunately, the selection was fairly limited, with Indian and Italian restaurants making up a majority of the eateries that delivered. However, I did like how Amazon listed the price range and delivery fees for each place on the main page.
Speaking of Caviar, the layout of Amazon’s page looks quite similar — but Caviar’s decision to use actual pictures of food sets it apart. Still, I liked how Amazon packs more information about each restaurant. Here’s Caviar’s design:
Anyways, back to the experience. After leaving Amazon and checking out reviews on Yelp — I wish the reviews were available directly on Amazon — I went with Palermo Pizza & Pasta, an Italian restaurant about a 2-mile drive from our office. I confirmed my delivery address and began adding some grub to my order.
Adding menu items was really easy. Food was grouped into categories like “Palermo’s Gourmet Pizza,” and “Hot Sandwiches.” Each item had a description, and allowed you to add extra toppings or provide special instructions.
When I was ready to checkout, Amazon asked me to log in with my Amazon credentials. From there, I entered a name and phone number, picked out a credit card that I already use for Amazon purchases — this was a nice touch — and added a tip. Once I submitted my order for delivery, Amazon sent me an email notifying me that my order was processing.
Eight minutes later, I received another email noting that the order would be delivered in one hour, around 12:20 p.m. Sure enough at high noon, Palermo’s friendly delivery driver Mito showed up at our doorstep. Estimated delivery time was 60 minutes, and I submitted my order at 11:13 a.m. — Palermo’s was 13 minutes early. We were hungry, though, and this was nice.
Mito said he’d done one other Amazon delivery already. He also noted how many people use Eat24 to order from Palermo’s — sometimes more than 100 per day. Amazon, he said, takes a small cut of every order booked through its website — just like it does with takeout orders.
As for the food, it was warm and smelled delicious. The order was correct, and I didn’t have to sign anything or tip Mito as this was already completed with Amazon.
Amazon’s online ordering service was, unsurprisingly, smooth. Like I noted above, our experience was solid and left us with little complaints.
But aside from the intricacies of the service, here’s the bigger question: Why is Amazon giving customers a way to have food delivered to their door?
Well, for one, the food delivery space is lucrative at the moment. There are multiple startups getting in the game, from Caviar to Munchery to Seattle-based Peachd. While it may seem like a bubble is forming, many entrepreneurs are still bullish about the opportunities.
“There are several startups going after food, but there are over 600,000 restaurants in the U.S.,” said Scott Stanford, co-founder of Sherpa Ventures and an investor in Munchery. “If the market has already proven that it can support that many restaurants, I would argue that there is room for one, two, five, or ten more coming at it from a completely different angle.”
Secondly, Amazon’s food delivery rollout aligns with the company’s strategy to launch a local marketplace that could compete with Yelp and Angie’s List, as Reuters reported in June. And as TechCrunch notes, delivering food could be part of Amazon’s plan to help sell its Local Register credit card reading device to restaurants, among other revenue avenues that the company could implement.
How slow Amazon rolls out the food delivery service remains to be seen. It could very well follow the company’s slow expansion of Amazon Fresh, which originally launched in Seattle back in 2007. Since then, the grocery delivery program has expanded to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego in 2013; the service debuted in Brooklyn and Philadelphia this fall.