Online restaurants boom, but…

Away from queuing at the counters of Quick Service Restaurants, more food vendors are venturing into the online food delivery business, but there is a snag, writes ONYEKORMAKA ASABOR

Technology has also disrupted the consumer market, though positively, especially the Quick Service Restaurant segment. The rush in the sector has, no doubt, engendered a situation whereby operators in the QSR business daily innovate on how best food can be delivered to various consumers at different location every time. Not a few companies have deployed technology, including mobile applications, to ensure convenience, reliability and speed in food order and delivery.

Given the gastronomic trend, increasing number of smartphone users have remained the target, pushing small food businesses to set up online restaurants. Almost all online food orders depend on smartphones or computers.

Given the number of food delivery apps in Nigeria at the moment, it would not be a misnomer to say that the food industry is undergoing an unprecedented reformation.


Market share

According to sources, the yearly revenue of online restaurants, worldwide, is estimated to be $956m this 2022, and Nigeria, no doubt, has huge share in the market, as lots of food delivery apps are available in the country. Jumia Food, Domino’s Pizza, Cold Stone Creamery, Chopnownow, So Fresh NG, GoFood NG among others sell food online across the country, particularly Lagos.

Analysed from the foregoing backdrop, it is no more news that online food business is somewhat burgeoning amid growing number of typical restaurants in the country, and the development throws up the question, should Nigerians buy food online?

While there are inherent benefits in buying food online, there are also loopholes pointed out by respondents on the issue.

Marketers try to be aware of potential conflicts or expectations that may affect buying decisions. For a marketer, if cognitive dissonance involves purchasing their product, they typically want to resolve the conflict in favour of what they are trying to sell. What are these conflicts from the perspective of online food ordering system?


Delivery versus advertised

An insurance executive, Edwin Ogboi, said, “Most of the pictures online vendors usually post on their website to attract online subscribers for the delicacies available for ordering are deceptive, as the foods upon purchase and delivery do not appear to be the same quality with what triggered the placement of the order in the first place.”

Painting a graphic picture of what he meant, he said, “It is like the barber that displayed different types of hairstyle at his shop, but can hardly cut such styles.

“Many food vending websites in Nigeria that want people to buy their food online tend to engage in this deception. Some show photos, either not clear enough or insufficient to allow the potential buyer see the food for what it really is.”

Then he advised, “Sellers need to display an image that truly represents what they have to offer. It does not make good business sense for one to see mouth-watering prawns being used to decorate white rice online, only to be served white rice and crayfish. There is a huge difference between prawn and crayfish.”


Paying so much for less

To Mrs Edna Ekeanyanwu, the quantity delivered when I purchased food online was not what I expected, as I felt cheated; particularly as it was more expensive than buying straight from the restaurant adjacent to my office that offers me choice to reject the food I don’t like.

“Given the time delivery takes, there is no way I can order extra plate. Most of the online food vendors in Nigeria also tend not to give a true reflection of the quantity of food they have in their online catalogue. People, who order food online, are engaging in a contract, and it is ideal that they know the quantity of the food they will get if they place an order.”

According to her, online food vendors should make both potential and existing customers to understand the exact size of food they ordered. They need to know the weight or size of the food or meal they are ordering, and it can be estimated in kilogramme or other units. When you want someone to buy pounded yam, for instance, they need to know the weight and/or understand if a plate would satisfy them or if an extra plate is need.”


Delayed delivery

People, who order food online in Nigeria, need to be informed that the food may not be supplied on time, instead of food apps providers deceiving the buyer, said Kennedy Igwebueze.

His words, “More often than not, you are usually kept waiting for an unspecified time, contrary to the assurance given that it would be supplied on time. Most of the local online food sellers tend to claim they can deliver in less than one hour; but in many cases – which I have experienced, they hardly deliver on time. If someone is hungry and ordered food online from a Nigerian caterer, chances are that they may have to find other ways to stop hunger because timely delivery is not guaranteed.”

According to Financial Street checks, online food business has come to stay, particularly considering its ancillary role to conventional restaurants across the country. For instance, during the era of Coronavirus Disease in 2020, the advantages of online food delivery were obvious, as it facilitated availability to prepared meals and enabled food providers to keep operating.


Not without risks

As already expressed in this context, online food delivery is not without its inadequacies, with consumers expressing dissatisfaction as a result of poor service delivery, which are, to some extent, beyond the control of online food vendors. A case in point is the duration of supplying food to buyers in a city like Lagos, which may be hampered by traffic congestion.

Godwin Nwokobi says, “There is a booming future for the industry, only if operators in the sector are sincere to their clientele by eschewing misleading advertisements.”

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