Why Zomato is less appealing as a food delivery app

Why the restaurant-listing legend is struggling to capture its position in the food delivery space!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog post are purely based on personal experience. It was not influenced by any external factor.

The first thing I do when I want to know about a restaurant is, take out my phone and open Zomato. Using Zomato has become a force of habit for anyone who wants to know about a restaurant in their city. Founded in 2008, the company has really come a long way. They rapidly grew in several cities and countries and has helped millions of users find their favorite restaurant.

When they launched their food delivery service in the city, I thought it was going to become an instant success. I thought people who visit Zomato to find their next favorite restaurant will also order from them using Zomato’s food delivery app.

But, it was not happening. Instead, people used Swiggy for ordering food.

When I asked people about their favorite feature in Zomato’s food delivery service, a majority of them spoke about how Zomato lists reviews, their table booking features, etc. No one spoke about their food delivery. I did not understand why people aren’t able to connect with Zomato as a food delivery app. Was it because they see it only as a restaurant listing app? Was the food delivery section in the app has a poor user experience?

Which app do you use to order food online?

— Karthik Pasupathy (@karthik2weet) October 26, 2019

I badly wanted to know why Zomato is less appealing as a food delivery app.

To get deeper into this topic, I played around with Zomato for a week and I came with a few pointers.

Nearby restaurants are not a priority

When I am hungry, I won’t be too choosy. I will want to order from the best restaurant that is close to me. That could be a place where I had already eaten and had seen on my way to work or home.

So, the primary filter on my food delivery app should be the one that shows restaurants that are closeby.

But, when I switch to Zomato’s food delivery app, the first four filters I see are Meals for one, Zomato Gold, Great offers, and Hygiene rated. The Express delivery filter is either half-hidden in the second row of filters, or I will have to do a horizontal scroll to on the categories section to find Express delivery.

The problem with this approach is when I choose a restaurant from the other categories, the restaurant is often far away and I end up paying a distance fee of INR 15. This adds up to packing fees, the occasional surge fees and taxes is burning a huge hole in my pocket. The other day I tried to order a chicken biryani. The price of the biryani was INR 150 and the total bill after all the fees came down to INR 225. That’s a 50% increase!

But, this was not the case with Swiggy. Their first four categories are Only on Swiggy, Offers near you, Express delivery and Pure Veg. I can find the closest restaurant and also save some money on the distance fees.

Surprisingly, this was not the case when I looked into Zomato’s restaurant listing app. The first filter over there is Nearest to me. And, it shows me the restaurants closest to me. When I click on a restaurant, I get the option to know more about the restaurant and also order food from it (if the restaurant is accepting online orders). For me, this was a more seamless experience than trying to find the closest restaurants amidst promoted restaurants and cloud kitchens.

I know it is a tough product decision to place the categories in the right order. But, imagining the mindset of an end-user and being one, I would want to see express delivery as one of the first three options than having to do a horizontal scroll to find it.

I don’t know if the order of the categories changes with usage. Zomato team or frequent users will have to throw light on that.

But, when it comes to food delivery showing proximity is the priority.

A few misleads

Several times, I was misled by the information provided in the app. Let me give you a few examples.

The other day when I opened up Zomato, it told me that it did not have enough riders at that moment and it might charge a surge fee when I am ordering from a few restaurants. But, when I scroll through the restaurants, there is no visual cue to tell me which restaurants will charge a surge fee. I will have to find out only after clicking the restaurant. The same is applied to a distance fee. There is no clear indication of which restaurants charge me a distance fee.

If I am someone who tries to save some money, I will have to click on each restaurant to know if it charges a surge fee or a distance fee. The experience is frustrating for a user.

Another example is, I was scrolling through the list of restaurants and found a place that delivers exotic biryani. After clicking on the restaurant I saw a notification that said: “This restaurant doesn’t deliver to your address”. I have two problems with this experience. First, why a restaurant that was outside of my delivery zone is listed for my location? Second, why tell me that they don’t deliver after I choose the restaurant?

Let me speak about the downside of this experience from an end user’s perspective.

When somebody chooses a restaurant from an endless choice of restaurants, they have more or less decided to order from that place. And, mentally they’re a bit relieved. But, when they find out that the restaurant doesn’t deliver, they’re back to square one. A couple of similar experiences will prevent them from using the app again.

The fluctuating delivery charges

When I tried ordering a couple of dishes, I realized that the delivery fee is fluctuating between INR 22 to INR 43. I tried ordering from a restaurant that is one kilometer away from my house and the delivery charge was INR 38 and when I tried to order from another place which I think is a cloud kitchen, the delivery charge was INR 22. The surprising part was the estimated delivery time from both the restaurants was around 30 minutes. If so, why is there is 16 rupee difference!

Why isn’t there a fixed charge for delivery! If you’re changing the delivery fee based on the distance of the restaurant, it makes sense. But, there is a distance fee for that. Then why isn’t there a standard delivery fee!

And, how is this delivery fees set?

Swiggy has defined their standard rates for delivery. The delivery fee is INR 35 if the order value is less than INR 98, and the delivery fee is INR 25 if the order value is above INR 98. They also educate the user with a nice little tooltip when they check out their order. Gives so much more clarity.

I think Zomato should define their delivery fee. This will definitely ease the end-user experience.

Zomato still shines

The area where Zomato shines is push notifications. The product team has put so much effort and creativity in sending contextual push notifications to its users.

Once I ordered food from a nearby restaurant and it got delivered so fast. When I was wondering how fast it was, I got a push notification that said “Heard of 16-minute delivery? You’ve experienced it. Your order was delivered in 16 minutes.” It was new and refreshing. I’ve encountered similar contextual push notifications.

Zomato should focus on bringing similar experiences to users throughout the app.

Everyone loves Zomato as a restaurant listing app. But, with a few tweaks to the user experience, people will start loving it as a food delivery app too! The easiest and proven way to do it is to see the app from a user’s perspective.