What if you could order food from any restaurant you like, on your computer, simply by searching for it online?
That’s the idea with a new feature Bing just rolled out. The feature allows instant online ordering from numerous restaurants—without even going to a restaurant’s website. Instead, all you do is search for the restaurant on Bing. In addition to the usual search results, you’ll likely see a sidebar that has business info such as location and contact info. And now, for countless eateries, that sidebar will include an “Order Online” button.
My first thought on seeing this new feature was, wait, why isn’t this already an app? How did Bing get to it first?
But there’s a good answer for that. Apps can add lots of extra functionality to a device, but they’re limited by what information is available to them. The food ordering apps that exist to date are properties attached to a single food ordering service, like EATstreet. Each of these services only has ordering information for the specific restaurants that they’ve signed up, which makes all of them limited (though amazing).
Bing, on the other hand, has local business information on virtually every restaurant in the developed world. At the same time, it apparently managed to link up with individual ordering services (including EATstreet, eat24 and BringMeThat). In other words, when you search for a local business name it can tell instantly whether that business offers delivery through any ordering service.
It probably won’t be long before Microsoft makes this an app of its own, but for now it’s a little ironic that the best way to order food online is to bypass the food ordering apps and use an old fashioned search engine.
Pros and Cons
As cool as it is, the new Bing feature is not without its limits. A few of the drawbacks include:
- Delivery only. According to the Bing announcement, the new feature works only for restaurants that offer delivery. It seems like it would be just as handy for take out orders, but apparently Bing (or the ordering services) aren’t there yet.
- Not all restaurants. Given how much data Bing has at its disposal, when I first heard the announcement I wondered if you could order from any restaurant, anywhere… but no. Only restaurants that are already signed up with an online food ordering service has this functionality in Bing. That means that you’re probably set in New York or San Francisco, but good luck in Indianapolis.
These limits aren’t really surprising, however. As impressive as the digital revolution is, our best tech continues to be limited by the data floating freely about the web. We’re a long way from a robot calling non-tech-savvy restaurants and placing your order for you.
Even so, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. The new Bing feature has a far wider reach than any individual ordering service and it’s built into one of the most popular sites on the web. Expect to see a copycat service from Google soon.
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