The Magic of Online Restaurant Ordering: How GrubHub Seamless Rose to the Top

It’s a simple algorithm, and tons of online companies use it for product shopping: place an order, and your item will arrive at your door. Online food delivery websites GrubHub and Seamless have taken the formula a step further – instead of ordering a product from a warehouse company like Amazon, you’re ordering from a local restaurant. Last year, the companies even merged to create a food delivery supersite called GrubHub Seamless. As a result of the merge, ordering has never been easier. The companies now work together to reach over 500 cities across the United States. The success of GrubHub Seamless can teach other online businesses how to follow a similar formula for success.

A Simple Formula = Success!

Seamless and GrubHub have similar premises. According to the Seamless website, the idea behind the service is that “ordering food shouldn’t be harder than eating it.” Essentially, Seamless and GrubHub act as middlemen between you and the restaurant you’re ordering from. The order goes to the website, and is then delegated to the restaurant. The restaurant receives the instructions, carries them out, and then food is delivered straight to your door.


The appeal? When you order online, you don’t have to talk to anybody on the phone. No more shoddy phone connections getting in the way, and if you’ve got phone anxiety, you’re good to go. You can also be extremely detailed in your instructions to the restaurant, so if you need Pad Thai to be prepared without peanuts, there is plenty of room to make those specifications known.

Payment is also streamlined through these sites, since you only have to register your credit card once, and then the company does the rest. Seamless and GrubHub even take away the process of deciphering the tip associated with your order; you can choose to tip one of the provided percentages or enter another value with ease.

Additionally, GrubHub and Seamless are a benefit for the restaurants in your hometown. The sites allow you to search not only by restaurant but also by food type. GrubHub Seamless is a great way for consumers to learn more about the different restaurants in their area and even try new foods. Restaurants that might not otherwise get a lot of business receive plenty of online exposure through GrubHub Seamless. All in all, it’s a win-win formula: hit some buttons, and food will show up on your doorstep!

What can other online businesses learn from this? GrubHub Seamless earned great success due to its streamlined online ordering process. A company that conducts most of its business online would do well to follow the formula. For example, a comment box where customers can specify requirements for their orders can do wonders to make them feel like a business cares about their individual needs. Furthermore, streamlining payment options will make them feel like they can return to your site again and again. Offering alternative options like PayPal can make the process a little easier as well.

Apps + Partnerships = Further Success!

I may have been late to the game, but I’ll tell you a little about how I discovered GrubHub in my city: my favorite Thai restaurant had some coupons at the front desk offering a discount if I ordered online. The rest is history. While the formula is relatively new, there are a number of ways that these companies reach their client base – and in-restaurant coupons are only the beginning.

For example, consider the GrubHub app, or its Seamless counterpart. If you need to make an order for pickup on the go, the app streamlines the process. Simply hit a few buttons, pick up your order on the way home from work, and enjoy! The app also allows users to save favorite orders, track their orders, and receive updates.

The takeaway here is that companies that offer an app will allow consumers to access the product or service from just about anywhere. Mobile optimization is the future of SEO, so if your site doesn’t have an app, it should at least offer a version formatted for mobile devices.


GrubHub Seamless has also partnered with sites like AllMenus to gain traction in the online restaurant ordering world. With this partnership, users can search restaurants that have their menus archived online. The site will then direct users to where they can order food – via Grubhub or Seamless! Partnering with companies that provide a similar (but not identical) service has helped GrubHub Seamless gain more visibility, a strategy that works for a number of different online businesses.

The Proof is in the Stats

Here are some of the resulting stats. GrubHub Seamless process more than 130,000 orders every day. The company also reaches over 25,000 restaurants all over the United States as well as in London, England – with more restaurants being added to the directory with great frequency. If this isn’t enough to convince you of the formula’s success, let’s take a look at other businesses that have borrowed the idea.

Spinoffs of the Formula: FoodToEat and TakeOutTaxi

There are a couple smaller sites that have also gained acclaim in the online food ordering world. FoodToEat focuses its efforts on supporting local food trucks and restaurants. Many people living in urban areas know how annoying it can be to wait in line for food trucks, which is why FoodToEat has taken charge of helping hungry New Yorkers save time. Users can order ahead of time and pick up their order at their favorite food vendor. The site has plans to expand to other cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and Austin.


One of FoodToEat’s major sticking points is its commitment to “ordering with a conscience.” Other online ordering sites charge food vendors 10-18% of the order, but FoodToEat only charges them 10 cents per order. When it comes to up-and-coming restaurants or smaller businesses such as food trucks, they believe in being a part of what keeps them afloat. FoodToEat increases business by showing that they provide a service that benefits local businesses. Many consumers spend to do good, so if your business does anything to help the community, your site should explain where the money goes and how those on the receiving end are benefiting.


Finally, the company TakeOutTaxi works with restaurants that do not normally deliver, such as Quiznos, Chili’s and Applebee’s. By partnering with these restaurants, folks who want to enjoy their favorite menu item without leaving the house can order online through TakeOutTaxi, having their BBQ or taco supreme delivered right to their home, office, or hotel. This company has shown that a variation on the formula – or, rather, an expansion thereof, has proven to be successful. So if your company adds a different angle to a tired conversation, make it known. It could be just what consumers are looking for.

What do you think of the GrubHub Seamless formula? How might your business streamline things for consumers?

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Tree is a somewhat nomadic graduate student pursuing an MFA in Poetry and Literary Translation from Drew University. A self-identified “diplobrat,” she spent over 16 years living as an expat in countries like Guatemala, Bolivia, and Tanzania. Tree graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature, a minor in Studio Art, and a concentration in Landscape Studies. In between writing poetry for school and content for CEM, she dabbles in goat herding and freelancing. Other interests include reading, watercolor painting, gardening, and traveling.

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