Monday, March 21, 2011

Things I Did Today
  • Worked from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
3 Recommended Links
Thoughts -- ShamelessWeb

If you're like me and work long hours in a major American city, it's likely that the highlight of your workday is ordering dinner on your client's dime. Perhaps the easiest and most common way to do this is through SeamlessWeb, which lets you order from hundreds (in New York, at least) of restaurants that deliver to your location. This sounds awesome, but unfortunately the restaurants are pretty disappointing. It's understandable that they're overpriced, because they get plenty of business from people who aren't paying with their own money. But I don't get why they're so underwhelming. To put things in perspective, I definitely prefer my five favorite delivery places in my Brooklyn neighborhood to any of the Seamless restaurants I've tried. And as far as I know, my opinion of the Seamless selections is pretty widely shared.

I wonder why this is the case. In the Financial District, where I work, I highly doubt that these restaurants are counting on a steady influx of first-time visitors with no particular culinary agendas. Sure, there is a fair amount of tourism in the area, but (i) the Seamless restaurants are mostly closed on weekends (like the offices of their primary customers), when tourism is presumably heaviest, and (ii) tourists typically have particular restaurants in mind for most, if not all, of their meals (it's very easy to get a few recommendations for just about any locale these days). As for the regular crowds, well, they're regular; they have their favorite spots, which they reward with routine business. So the Financial District is a far cry from, say, Times Square in terms of culinary clientele. Yet the restaurants aren't that much better. I must conclude, then, that SeamlessWeb is not functioning nearly as well as economic theory would predict. It's a large, open market with plenty of competition, low barriers to entry, and predominantly repeat customers: the kind of place where an excellent restaurant would make a killing.

It's of course possible that my naive conception of the relevant facts is inaccurate. But here's a more encouraging possibility: market forces are still at work. Indeed, just this year I've noticed a half dozen or so new restaurants join the ranks of Seamless, and a couple of them are pretty good. Perhaps it's just a matter of time.

That said, here are my favorite Seamless restaurants that deliver to the Financial District (there are plenty I haven't tried):
  • Burger Burger
  • Giardino D'Oro
  • Gigino Trattoria
  • Harry's Cafe & Steak
  • Haru
  • Ise
  • Kitchenette
  • Koodo Sushi
  • Lenny's
  • Nelson Blue
  • Red
  • Ruchi Indian Cuisine
  • Sarge's Deli
  • Smorgas Chef
  • Toloache Taqueria
  • Yorganic
  • Zaitzeff

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