Today Facebook is announcing that users can now order food for takeout or delivery using both the Facebook mobile app and website. But it’s not at all what you might think; Facebook hasn’t created its own answer to Seamless, which would be massive news for the restaurant industry. This isn’t that.
Instead, the company is partnering with existing services GrubHub, Delivery.com, DoorDash, ChowNow, Zuppler, EatStreet, Slice, and Olo, and will now link out to those food ordering businesses for restaurants that support them. You head to the new “Order Food” area of Facebook under the Explore section, find the local spot you’re craving, and then hit “start order.” From there, if a restaurant supports more than one of Facebook’s ordering partners, you’ll be able to choose between them. Once you do, Facebook will bring up an in-app browser that takes you through the existing websites for Delivery.com and the others. That’s where all the ordering actually happens, so you’re not actually doing much with the Facebook app beyond finding a restaurant and tapping your preferred delivery option.
Seamless is not currently among Facebook’s partner services, but parent company GrubHub is, so that should get you most of the same delivery restaurants. But there are other omissions such as Caviar, so you’ll still need to open those apps separately to know which restaurants use them and place an order.
Facebook is also partnering on food ordering directly with national chains Chipotle, Five Guys, Jack in the Box, Papa John's, Wingstop, Panera, TGI Friday's, Denny's, El Pollo Loco, and Jimmy John's. But it works the same way as with the other services; you browse to one of these nearby chain locations, pick start order, and then you’ll be sent to their existing delivery system. All Facebook is really doing here is launching an in-app browser so you can get a meal without ever leaving the app.
“We've been testing this since last year, and after responding to feedback and adding more partners, we're rolling out everywhere in the US on iOS, Android and desktop,” Alex Himel, Facebook’s VP of local, said in a press release. “People already go to Facebook to browse restaurants and decide where to eat or where to order food, so we're making that easier.”
That “we’ve been working on this for a year” bit surprised me. There’s certainly some work necessary to link all these restaurant pages with the services they use (and businesses can opt out of displaying the food ordering feature if they wish). The value for Facebook is obvious; the company hopes you’ll fill your craving and then keep swiping through your news feed with your greasy fingers.
But if you’re left asking why you wouldn’t just use an app from these services or chains to begin with, I don’t have a great answer for why Facebook’s little shortcut would be better. It’s ever so slightly faster if you’re already on Facebook, I suppose — and good exposure for some of the services that users might not already be familiar with.