There was a time — and it wasn't that long ago — when Wichitans who wanted food delivered to their houses could choose from chain pizza or Kung Pao chicken.
But like most things in this world, technology has changed all that.
Over the past year, Wichita has gone from a no-delivery town to a big delivery town, thanks to several third-party delivery companies that have moved in.
Wichita2Go and Fetch Neighbor both launched in spring 2016. And national players UberEats and Grubhub both entered the market in the past six months. The services will — for a fee — deliver food from dozens of Wichita restaurants (and counting) right to a front door or office. Customers with smartphones just pull up the company's apps, punch up what they want and then track their drivers in real time as they travel from the restaurants' door to theirs.
It's all so easy and growing in popularity so much that some local restaurants are looking to start their own delivery services. Panera recently launched its own delivery program in Wichita.
The restaurant delivery services all operate similarly, but each has its own pricing structure and fee structure.
Brian Burleson, whose Wichita2go.com is a franchise of the Mytown2go.com chain, said that his business has tripled in the two years he's been open, and he's up to nearly 70 restaurants on his roster and 25 drivers on his staff.
"I really do I think that Wichita is a big enough city, and it's a foodie city, and there's so many different types of cuisine through Wichita that there's a demand," he said.
Restaurant owners seem to like the service, some more than others. The services all keep between 10 and 30 percent of the total on the orders, but that works out fine for Mario Quiroz, who owns Molino's Mexican Cuisine at 1064 N. Waco.
He's signed up with Wichita2Go, UberEats and Grubhub, and on a busy day, he'll send 20 deliveries out the door, he said. As a result of his new to-go business, Quiroz said, his sales have gone up about 10 percent.
He views it as just another customer service.
"I think it's part of the industry and how it's been changing for the last five years," he said. "I encourage business owners to do this. It's how the customers are reacting to the new technology and how companies are offering services. You need to be playing the game."
Meanwhile, at Doo-Dah Diner, 206 E. Kellogg, owner Timirie Shibley struggles a bit with the demand for delivery. After putting it off for a while, she said, she recently signed up with Wichita2Go.
Delivery services are the wave of the future, she said, and customers like it. But when her dining room is buzzing and customers are waiting for tables and food, it's hard to justify slowing down the kitchen to prepare to-go orders, especially since many of Doo-Dah's dishes require sides and sauces that take time to package up.
Sometimes, when people who are at the restaurant in person are facing long waits, Shibley shuts down to-go ordering, and that's angered some customers, causing them to leave negative reviews online.
"I have been advised, if I want to stay competitive with the millennials, I will need to find a way to embrace this delivery concept," she said. "I just can't jeopardize our in-house business for it ... So, we basically haven't figured it all out yet."
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, we ordered lunch from all four of Wichita's independent restaurant delivery services to compare their setups, perks and performances. We chose different restaurants for each service, all within a few miles of the Wichita Eagle building at 330 N. Mead.
Here's what we found:
Website: www.wichita2go.com, or use the app, MyTown2Go
Number of participating restaurants: Almost 70, the most of any other delivery service. Their clients include more upscale places like Wine Dive, Abuelo's and Albero Cafe as well as faster restaurants like Planet Sub, Firehouse Subs and Qdoba.
Our order: We sent Wichita2go to The Kitchen, the restaurant at 725 E. Douglas in Union Station. That's 0.3 miles from the Wichita Eagle's front door at 330 N. Mead. We ordered two salads, one with steak added, and we asked to substitute the cilantro lime dressing for ranch. After we set up an account, we were able to pay via credit card right on the app.
Delivery time: We placed our order, using the app, at 11:47 a.m. The app estimated that it would take one hour for our food to arrive. Nevertheless, we persisted. Shortly after, a dispatcher called and asked how we'd like the steak cooked. By 12:02 p.m., we received a text saying that our driver had arrived at the restaurant. He appeared at the door at 12:14 p.m., 27 minutes later. Throughout the process, we received several text updates from the service, letting us know the status of the order.
Service: Our driver, Jay Krause, wore a black T-shirt and a black ball cap and had our food in an insulated zipper bag stamped with the Wichita2Go logo. He said he'd been driving with the service since it first launched and loved it. He sometimes makes 75 or more deliveries a day., he said. Our food order was accurate and delicious, although the restaurant didn't get the note about the dressing change. We muddled through.
Fees: Or total bill was $44.83, which included $30.80 for our salads and steak, a $3.95 delivery fee, a $1.23 web service fee and an 18 percent driver tip, which we added.
Service: Wichita2Go is unique, said owner Brian Burleson, for a couple of reasons. One, if anything goes wrong, there's a local number customers can call. Also, he said, his app has the ability to split the bill up if several co-workers are ordering together.
Delivery charges start at $3.95 and cover a 6- to 7-mile radius. Deliveries that are farther away will come with a steeper fee. Wichita2Go also has a service in Derby called Derby2go.
Overall impression: We were happy with the selection, the ease of the app and the professionalism of the driver. We were a bit concerned at first by the long estimated delivery time, but Burleson said he does that just to be safe and is about to shorten the estimated time. This is the service to use if you want a big selection.
Website: www.ubereats.com/wichita/, or use the app UberEats
Number of participating restaurants: More than 40, including Village Inn, Pho Special, Hu Hot, The Hill and The Artichoke as well as fast-food places like McDonald's, Bionic Burger and NuWay.
Our order: We placed our UberEats order from The Artichoke, which is 1 mile from the Eagle. We'd actually ordered from UberEats before, so the app remembered the credit card number, making placing the order super fast.
Delivery time: We placed the order at 11:51 a.m. and were immediately notified via text that our order should arrive by 12:06 p.m. At 12:02 p.m., we were notified via the app that our food was en route. UberEats was the second order we placed, but it was the first to arrive. Our driver pulled up at 12:08 p.m., 17 minutes after we placed the order.
Service: The driver was pleasant enough, but he wasn't wearing any identifying uniform. And he handed us our food, which was packaged in Styrofoam, in a regular plastic bag. Still, everything was correct and temperature-appropriate when it arrived.
Fees: Or total bill was $17.40, which included $8.84 for our food and a $5.99 "booking fee." I later added a $2 tip.
Details: UberEats is a national service that uses Uber's existing drivers to pick up and deliver food quickly. It started in 2015.
Overall impression: UberEats is super fast, and its app is pretty slick You can search restaurants by the type of cuisine, the quickness with which they can deliver or by categories like "fast food" or "bar food." It was a little alarming that our fees and tip were almost as much as our food, so in the future, we'd probably use UberEats for a larger order.
Website: www.grubhub.com, or use the app Grubhub
Number of participating restaurants: Around 30. It's been operating in Wichita for less than a month. Its roster includes Dennys, Delano Diner, Southeast Carryout, Fetch Bistro, Felipe's and more.
Our order: We placed our GrubHub order from Molino's, 1064 N. Waco, which is 1.6 miles from the Eagle. After setting up an account, I was able to punch up an order of two tamales with a side of charro beans. We were able to pay via credit card on the app.
Delivery time: Our Grubhub order was the last one we placed, and we hit "order" at 12:02 p.m. At 12:15, an app notified us that the food was on its way. The driver arrived at 12:24 p.m., 22 minutes later.
Service: Our driver was dressed in a bright red T-shirt that matched the GrubHub logo., and she also was carrying an insulated, bright-red GrubHub bag with our food inside. She was friendly and chatty and revealed that she'd worked for another local food delivery service but preferred Grubhub because it paid her a guaranteed hourly rate. The order was correct.
Fees: Our total bill was $12.24, which included $9.49 for the food and $2.04 for a tip I added. There was no delivery fee. A Grubhub representative told me that "delivery fees vary by restaurant," and some charge $2.99.
Details: GrubHub, which is based in 1,600 cities in the United States and in London, is one of the most established restaurant delivery services around and is partnered with 80,000 restaurants. Earlier this month, it expanded into 34 new markets, and Wichita was one of them.
Overall: The driver and her uniform made a nice impression, and the service was fast. And it's nice that, at least for now, many Wichita restaurants aren't charging anything extra for delivery. We'll look forward to the service adding more restaurants.
Website: www.fetchneighbor.co, or use the app FetchNeighbor
Number of participating restaurants: Around 18, including several that aren't on the other services, like Ziggy's and Marrakech Cafe. Fetch also delivers groceries, dry cleaning and any other item that people might need from local stores. It's not dedicated just to restaurants like the others, so its services are a bit less streamlined.
Our order: We ordered from Ziggy's, the Clifton Square pizza restaurant that's at 3700 E. Douglas, 2.6 miles from the Eagle. We got a Cheese Johnson pizza and an Italian toasty sandwich. Once I placed the order, I recieved a text message saying it had been placed, but it didn't say where it was from so I was a little confused. By process of elimination, I realized it was Fetch Neighbor. The app didn't accept money when I ordered. You pay, via credit card only, when the driver arrives.
Delivery time: We placed our order at 11:54 a.m., and our estimated delivery time was 45 to 60 minutes. The driver arrived at 12:56 p.m., and hour and two minutes later. We were a bit concerned because after we placed the order, we didn't hear anything else until the driver arrived at Ziggy's at 12:49 p.m. That's when we got a text allowing us to follow the driver's progress in real time via a link on the text.
Service: The driver pulled up but sat in his car for several minutes, later explaning he was confused about the address. The pizza was in a box on his seat but was still hot and delicious. The sandwich also was warm.
Fees: Our total bill was $27.29, which included $17.33 for the food. Their delivery fee was $3.99 plus an extra 45 cents. (The standard fetch delivery fee is $3.99 for 2 miles of travel plus 90 cents for every additional mile.) There was also a 9 percent "convenient fee" of $1.96, and I added a $3.56 tip.
Details: Fetch Neighbor's drivers have attachments for their phones that allow them to accept credit card payments on the spot. They don't accept cash.
Overall impression: Fetch, which aims to be a more than just a restaurant delivery service, isn't on the same playing field as the other three, which are focusing just on food. The fees and the wait time make this service less appealing if you just want a quick meal. But the fact that it has several restaurants on its roster that the others don't works in its favor.