The future of food ordering is upon us. New phone apps offer customers the chance to pre-order so that food and drink will waiting when they arrive. Large-scale Mexican chain Chipotle has been offering online ordering to its customers since 2009, and just last year San Francisco's grilled cheese mini-chain The Melt joined in as well.
Tech-forward Russian Hill coffee shop Contraband Coffee isn't going to be left in the dust. Contraband recently signed up with "next generation ordering technology" company TapViva to give customers the chance to use smart phones to order their coffee beverages.
Tapviva users will be able to chose from a small list of local
businesses (currently only La Cocina's Dolores Park based food truck
Chaac Mool and the Palo Alto Philz Coffee) and then place an order,
enter a credit card, and have their beverage or food already prepared
when they arrive. Nathan Wyss, co-owner of Contraband, was unhappy with
his previous point-of-sale system and signed up with Tapviva, hoping
that the mobile app would "give people in a rush an option" if they
didn't have the time to slog through a long line.
Tapviva was inspired by all the time that Mission-based entrepreneurs Stephen Conn and Evan Madow spent in long lines at coffee shops. "We'd always order the same thing" Conn told SF Weekly
, "so it seemed like a natural thing to allow customers to automate that part of the process and let people order ahead of time."
Of course, the worry inherent in giving customers the privilege of ordering ahead of time is that it erodes the relationship formed between customer and server. "I think that is a risk," Conn said, "but we think there's a segment of customers who value the speed and convenience of ordering ahead of time more than that interaction. Especially if it means avoiding waiting in line for a long time or the possibility of a wrong order or a cold drink."
Wyss, who started using the service two weeks ago, acknowledged that Contraband has concerns about the potential of "people showing up to a cold drink, or that we miss the order and the customer turns up to nothing at all." Still, for the most part, he says that these problems were easily fixed, and that people seemed "excited about the app."
The question remains: Is pre-ordering coffee drinks the next natural progression in time-saving tech, or the next phase of our preference for convenience over social interaction? How soon until we can order our double cappuccino on eBay? Our espresso from Amazon?
Tapviva currently has clients in Denver, New York as well as San Francisco. The app can be downloaded for free from the iTunes store.