At first blush, OrderAhead sounds like another competitor in an already crowded space: one more service that intends to make ordering and obtaining food as quick and painless as possible, yet another that will fall at the hands of Seamless and GrubHub. OrderAhead changes things up a bit by aiming squarely for takeout (or pickup, however you like to say it), and while it's only available for those looking to get some food in the San Francisco Bay Area for now, the creators told The New York Times that it wants people who use the app "to be able to pick up anything, anywhere."
“Our goal is not just to be a cool food-ordering app”
What that means is that one day — OrderAhead hopes — you won't need separate Best Buy, Walgreens, and Apple apps to pick up an item. Everything will just hook directly into OrderAhead, and smaller stores that can't (or don't) want to develop their own apps will take advantage of the service, too. Of course, that's all mostly hopes and dreams: let's take a look at what OrderAhead is offering today for iPhone users in San Francisco.
Like many apps nowadays, OrderAhead takes user interface simplicity to heart. All the app provides is an alphabetical list of nearby fast-food restaurants. There isn't even a search function. Once you find what you're looking for, you can peruse the menu, choose your options (would you like pickle or cole slaw?), and make notes (just a little bit of mayo, please!). Then you can choose when you'd like to pick up your items, and you're good to go. It all works pretty well, and theres a pleasing information page for each restaurant that shows hours, location, phone number, and mapping information. It's all available on the desktop, too, if you'd like, and the interface there is essentially identical.
Ultimately, the utility of OrderAhead depends on how many restaurants add support, and, down the road, which other types of retailers pick up on the service. The company told The New York Times that it'll be launching in New York and other cities in the coming months, and that an Android app is on the way. While it'll be hard to beat competitors like Seamless and GrubHub (which also offer takeout), in a world where on-demand services like Uber keep gaining popularity it may be able to carve out a niche. If you're interested, the free iPhone app is available now in the iTunes App Store.