Lunchtime at the Seattle mag offices can be a little painful. We spend so much time writing about and photographing gorgeous, gourmet food; but around our SoDo HQ, lunchtime dining options are limited. More often than not, tight deadlines (and a little bit of a laziness) find us calling Jimmy John's but secretly wishing we could pay the trusty couriers extra to bring us something other than sandwiches (tasty though they are).
Let this explain why the editors could barely contain themselves after first hearing about Get It Now, a new mobile app service launched in Seattle this week. Developed by the San Francisco startup Postmates, the mobile app lets you order just about anything from just about anywhere to be delivered via courier in less than an hour for an affordable fee (ranging from $4-$12 in Seattle right now).
To use Get It Now, just download the iOS app (sorry Android people, only iOS for now). After entering a credit card and address, you can “search nearby” for stores or manually enter a store name—any store, anywhere in the city. You’ll notice that many of the restaurants have pre-populated menu items to choose from, whereas other shops, like clothing and gift stores, prompt you to enter a “shopping list.” That’s because Get It Now is currently focusing on eateries for its live inventory options, including local restaurants that don’t typically deliver, like Marination Station, a much-loved Hawaiian-Korean-fusion food truck (now also a brick and mortar). The Postmates blog is a great resource for drumming up ideas for where to order from; a recent post lists participating restaurants that offer healthy eating options, including vegan fare.
It's a little easier to use the app for those restaurants with live inventories, but, technically, nothing is off limits.
If you happen to know what a shop carries or have called to ask about it (say, that H&M nouveau grunge biker jacket pictured in our Spring Fashion Forecast story in the March issue), you can manually enter it into the “shopping list,” and the courier can get that for you, too.
After you decide what you want and check out, the program will send the request out to the courier network. When a courier accepts, you’ll see her picture, an estimated arrival time, and a GPS icon that maps her progress across the city. If there are any issues, you can press a button to directly call the courier, and vice versa.
The system is well-designed and easy to figure out. I had a chance to preview it last week, though, and despite its overall smooth execution, there are two potential caveats:
First, the service is not cost-effective for the delivery of a single meal. I used the app to order a kimchi quesadilla from Marination Station; the food was about $6.50, and the delivery charge was about $4.50 (traveling from Capitol Hill to SoDo). A delivery charge that runs about 70% the cost of the food (and that doesn't include tip) feels excessive , except in the case of a very particular craving. It would make better sense if I were ordering food for a group of people, who could split the delivery cost, or if I were ordering more expensive items.
Another possible reservation with restaurant delivery is how the quality of food might depreciate during delivery. About half the Get It Now fleet is made up of bike couriers, and while I admire the environmental ethos, bikes generally go slower than cars, which matters when the quality of food depends on temperature and freshness. When my Marination Station delivery arrived 40 minutes after my order, the box was a little smashed from traveling around in someone’s backpack, and the quesadilla was lukewarm and a little soggy (though still tasty). So, I would also hesitate to use the service for food that doesn’t travel well (grilled cheese, quesadillas, etc.)
Having said that, the engineering of this service is impressive, and I can see its uses for group lunches and shopping for particular items. For example, if you know H&M has that biker jacket you want, a $7 delivery charge saves you the trip, gives you instant gratification and, in many cases, may be cheaper than shipping.
Postmates founder Bastian Lehmann emphasizes other benefits: the service keeps revenue in the city and reduces the typical footprint of an item ordered from, say, Amazon. Instead of your Moleskine notebooks shipping from a warehouse in Arizona, they could travel the short distance between you and your local bookstore.
Here's to supporting more local businesses, in spite of laziness.
Currently, delivery is available from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m., daily. More info at postmates.com/getitnow