When the internet revolution and the surge in mobile technology really took off, there were things happening that were unpredictable to all but the most prescient futurists. Social media networks took most people by surprise, for example, and the music, movie, and TV industries were clearly caught off-guard by all the changes. However, there were a few things that were predictable: by the 1990s, people were making jokes about the proliferation of NSFW material online, as it was obviously an industry into which our energies were channeled. The other is much more benign, though equally as passion-driven: food ordering.
It was pretty clear that the food industry would change. What makes something predictable is prior behavior, and we had been ordering food over the phone for decades, and by other means for much longer. The food delivery industry was going to adapt, and indeed, be changed forever by the rise of information. They had to adapt or perish.
What was less predictable was how it would change how we ate. We’re still early on, but new apps available for our smartphones and tablets are making the way we decide how to eat a much easier, and perhaps ultimately more healthy, process.
Checking calories: behavior follows information
One thing we’ve focused on a lot on this blog has been how behavior can be changed with the introduction of information, and watching calories is a big example of this. Our experience in online ordering actually reveals the opposite so far, and unsurprisingly. People who order food online tend to order items that are worse for them than when they do so in person or even on the phones. This makes sense, of course: the anonymity of the internet lets us click “extra meatballs/extra cheese” three times, whereas we’d never say it to a person more than once.
That can change, though, if you can program your phone to count calories for you. It is much like talking to a person. You don’t really care what the person thinks about you; you just don’t want to have to admit the behavior to yourself. Having all that information on your phone, like with the iPhone 6 calorie counter, can help you decide to order a healthier option, even if it is just between you and your phone. The health apps in our smartphones help us understand our overall well-being. Seeing that kind of data can encourage you to change your order from a friend chicken joint to a sushi place.
Food Ordering or Finding the Right Restaurant?
I’m pretty old, so I remember when ordering pizza meant either ordering from the same place or else flipping through a phone book and hoping that the ad bragging “The area’s best slices!” kept sacred the phone book code of honor. Being in a hotel in a strange city was a nightmare, as you didn’t even have a friend around who could say, “Yeah, it was pretty good.” (Having a friend who knew a pizza place in a strange city was like having your own personal Marco Polo, weaving tales of exotic Pittsburgh). Obviously, that’s all different now. You can find every pizza place in the city, as well as consumer reviews for everything. You aren’t at the whim of luck.
Changing the way we work
This matters for one of the most important places in our day-to-day lives: work. Even if we resent being at the office, we are still there, and how we eat is hugely important to the success of our day. Good employers frequently treat their staffs to lunch, and before, this could be a pain. 20 pizzas in the breakroom might be a nice shift from the routine, but it never satisfied everyone.
By the same token, even just ordering with your team could be a lesson in painful negotiations, hurt feelings, and bitter recriminations. Now, though, it is easy to order from several different places, or find a place that has both tacos and salads. Do people want burgers, but not the same-old? Find out how your workplace can get exciting new burger varieties delivered to the door.
It isn’t just a matter of convenience, or health, or variety. We can learn about nearly every item of food we want to order, from how it is made to how it impacts us. How we order food was a predictable change. What we order is one of those unforeseen and wonderful consequences of information, the world in the palm of our hands. Follow the ClickAway Blog for more technology insights.