Dinners In The Bag

So many web sites are frustrating — two percent solutions. I have written about many of them both here in the weblog and also in my book, Net attitude. It is so refreshing to visit a web site that is intuitive, easy to use, meets your needs, and does so quickly — without wasting your time. There are actually quite a few of them, and it is not just Amazon and eBay. I have often cited stamps.com and myups.com but a few nights ago I had the joy of experiencing a lesser known web site that did all the right things.

It was a long day for both my wife and me. Around 7PM we both decided it was time for dinner. With both of us having worked so hard all day it didn’t seem fair for either of us to start cooking, yet neither of us felt like going out to dinner. Then we remembered Dinners In The Bag. My wife found an advertisement from the local paper that she had been saving and so I went to their web site. The homepage listed sixteen restaurants in the local area. I selected a favorite and found the complete menu listed. I have seen so many web sites of restaurants where you click on the menu listing and find there are no live links — the menu is just an image of the "real" menu. Not so at Dinners In The Bag. I clicked on an entree, and up came the "shopping cart" complete with "quantity" ordered and the choice to "checkout" or "continue shopping". We selected our entrees, an appetizer and salad and "checked out". It took just seconds as I used Gator (gator.com) to fill in my address, phone, and credit card information with a single mouse click.

The web pages at Dinners In The Bag were simple, clear and concise. The "shopping" metaphor aside, the site was intuitive and efficient. In less than a minute I received an email saying that our "order" had been received by Dinners In The Bag. Immediately after that an email arrived saying that the restaurant we selected had received the order and it was being prepared. Twenty minutes after placing the order, the front doorbell rang. Dinner had arrived. It was piping hot and delicious to the last morsel. The $8 delivery fee plus a tip for the driver made the entire experience quite reasonable from a pricing point of view.

What is the business model for Dinners In The Bag? I haven’t seen their numbers but it seems to me that this model should be quite successful. The restaurant had the same cost of food. They had to use some packing materials rather than wash the dishes and set a table so there may be a bit more cost there. They increased the diners per table for the evening. The delivery was outsourced to drivers who get tips plus (I assume) some portion of the $8 delivery fee. From a consumer point of view it was very convenient — thanks to the simple, transaction oriented web site. We were able to eat in the comfort of our home. Cleanup was less than normal. There was a range of choices from modest to expensive meals. The service was superb.

There have many attempts at services like this over the past seven years. Most have failed. However, with the large and growing number of people with DSL or Cable modems who are now "always on", things change. When you have to go logon to your ISP and maybe even dial multiple times to get connected or stay connected, you don’t think of using the Net to order dinner. On the other hand, when you are "always on", the "net overhead" is gone. You just go to a PC somewhere in the house and click on favorites and you are at Dinners In The Bag or other services.

Does this mean we never go out to dinner again? Of course not. It is another choice. Home theatres and DVDs don’t mean you never go to a movie or a play. MP3 players don’t mean you never go to a concert. The Internet is all about choice – "Power To The People".