Domino’s, who pioneered home delivery of pizza in Australia, released its first fast-food app in 2009. The app allowed customers to order their pizza on their phones and track the delivery from the store to their door. Other fast-food chains soon followed, with Pizza Hut introducing its app in 2010 and Starbucks introducing an “Order & Pay” app to help customers avoid the queues.
According to Wikipedia, the world’s first online food order was a pizza from Pizza Hut in the USA in 1994. It took the advent of the smartphone and the arrival of the App Store in 2008 to take digital food ordering to the next level.
By all reports, the Domino’s fast food app was an immediate success in Australia. The company had to hire around 1000 new staff to cope with the demand. The Pizza Hut app, with a range of features including augmented reality, reached 70,000 downloads within the first 30 days of launch.
The Domino’s app evolved further, into a version called Pizza Mogul which let customers design their own pizzas then share and “sell” them on social media. It included a promotional element that allowed customers to earn “Mogul dough” which could be used as currency in-store or donated to charity.
McDonald’s entered the fray with a fast food app that let customers pre-order on a mobile, save and reorder favourites, receive promotional offers and find new items. In 2016 their Monopoly at Macca’s app was the most downloaded free app just 24 hours after its launch.
The fast-food app has gone on to change the way Australians eat. Food delivery services like MenuLog, GrubHub, Delivery Hero, Foodora, Deliveroo and Uber Eats have gone from strength to strength. By 2017 nearly 50 per cent of Australians had ordered food online.
And not just fast food. Many leading restaurants began supplying meals-to-go, delivered by services such as Foodora or Uber Eats. This in turn led to the appearance of “dark kitchens” or “ghost restaurants” – restaurant-style kitchens with no actual restaurant attached, dedicated to preparing food for in-home consumption. In August 2018, Uber Eats had more than 13,000 participating restaurants throughout Australia. However, delivery commissions of up to 30 per cent can eat into restaurant profits.
A study in 2018 showed that Sydneysiders, on average, spent the most on home-delivered food, while Adelaide people spent the least. Pizza remained the most-ordered item, with vegetarian meals and salads the fastest-growing categories.
The Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 saw food delivery services surge in popularity. The prolonged lockdown in Melbourne saw many of the top restaurants offering partially prepared meals, along with instructions on how to complete the cooking at home.