The Perils/Pleasure of Online Ordering

Photo by Ryan Ozawa
If you're going to wait for your burrito either way...
I'm the first person to admit that I am technologically challenged, which is probably why up until last week I had never ordered takeout/delivery online. (Oddly enough, I do use the interwebs for purchasing almost everything else).

My aversion to online food ordering stems in part from the fact that I tend to be just a little detail-oriented in my food requests. Perhaps not as bad as Meg Ryan à la When Harry Met Sally but nevertheless (probably annoyingly) fastidious.

But the new year is all about trying new things and taking chances, so a few days ago I placed an order for a burrito via Freebird's online ordering system.

It was extremely easy and I was excessively proud of myself. Freebirds not only sends you an email confirming the specifics of your order but also sends a follow-up email alerting you that your designated pick-up location has "processed" the order.

I received both missives in a very timely fashion and looked forward to strolling into Freebirds (at 5 p.m. as per the website's instructions) to pick up my customized burrito.

About approximately 5:06 p.m., I strolled into Freebirds, which was empty save two tables of diners finishing late lunches/early dinners. I approached the lone clerk behind the counter and requested my order.

"Um..." he said, looking around.

Turns out "processing" the order doesn't necessarily involve completing it. Kudos though to the manager, who offered me a free drink (I declined) then a free cookie (well, all right). Although I was initially annoyed my food wasn't ready, I certainly recognize it's not the end of the world to wait an extra five minutes for a terrifically tasty burrito made exactly according to specification.

But will I use the online ordering system again? Eh, perhaps not. For me, the allure of internet ordering is its ease, efficiency and (particularly when i'm feeling anti-social), minimal human contact. If, however, I spend just as much time clicking away and then waiting at the pick-up location as I would standing in line and speaking to a person, then I might as well do the latter. Especially at Freebirds where the burrito builders are so jolly and the filling options so diverse.

Readers, what are your experiences with online ordering? Are there any Houston restaurants where this method is so reliable as to make it preferable over calling on the phone?

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If there is an option to order online, I'm always going to do that rather than calling. There is more time to muse over the menu and decide on my special requests. Most places you call nowadays immediately ask you to hold and then scream questions at you in a rapid fire. Call me anti-social, but I'd rather check boxes and hit submit if it means I don't have to navigate accents, phone volume, and miscommunication when ordering dinner.


I had the same experience at Elevation Burger two weeks ago.  I placed my online order, and noted the time I would be picking up.  I showed up at the appointed time and, while the burgers were ready, they did not cook the french fries until I got there.  While I appreciate hot fries, they just got cold in the car on the drive home, anyway.  Plus, I had the added bonus of some guy pestering me about where I got my hair cut and I should come to his salon instead!

Jeff Gilmer
Jeff Gilmer

Freebirds online? I probably wouldn't because it only takes 3 minutes to make a burrito. Pizza? Chinese? etc? Yes, I don't want to go in, place an order, then have to sit and wait 20 minutes in store for it to be ready.


Pei Wei has a reasonable online ordering system.


I don't order online because it requires someone on the other end to be monitoring the computer and that always seems unlikely to me.  Calling is faster too.  And yes, Chipotle is sooooo much better that FB.

WestSideBob topcommenter

I'm getting too old for FBs.  No matter which one you visit, the music is always too loud.  And how about the really cloying chat you get while the burrito is built ?

gossamersixteen topcommenter

@WestSideBob I hate how they rush you through the line, and have no signs detailing what they have as far as toppings. I hate being rushed, and when I don't know what you have on offer it makes it exceedingly difficult to construct a good burrito. And when I ordered nachos to go with the toppings on the side they looked at me like I was crazy, uh sorry mister no one wants sog-fest nachos....

kshilcutt moderator editor

@WestSideBob All reasons I go to Mission Burrito instead. Plus: local chain!

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