The Smarter Way To Order Takeout

Get your food faster, while it's still hot, by following a few simple rules.

Grabbing takeout is the solution to so many problems. Sometimes you don't feel like cooking. Sometimes you have a very specific craving. Sometimes you want to pretend you're a prince of a small European country eating a dish prepared for you by your personal chef. Regardless of your motives, takeout is an indelible part of American restaurant culture—and there are a few tips and tricks that can greatly improve the experience of ordering it.

Call the restaurant

While apps like Grubhub and Uber Eats have made it super easy to scroll through a seemingly endless list of restaurants that will deliver to your doorstep, try calling the restaurant and ordering from them directly. (Yes, you can still do that.)

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Third-party apps take a big chunk from every sale they facilitate, which can end up hurting the restaurant. In 2020, New York City Council even passed a bill capping the amount delivery apps can take from restaurants. When you order from the restaurant directly, all the money goes straight to the business, and you, in turn, won't have to pay an app's service fee.

Of course, some restaurants are only available for delivery through third-party apps because they don't employ their own delivery fleets. But even in those cases, you can typically still order directly from them for pickup. If it's a spot nearby, on somewhere along your commute, it's always cheaper to duck in and grab the order yourself.

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Order for pickup, not delivery, whenever possible

Ah, pickup. It is, in my opinion, the smartest way to order takeout. As mentioned, it's cheaper than delivery, as you don't have to pay any extra delivery or service fees even if you order through a third-party app. You also don't necessarily need to tip on a pickup order (though a few bucks is always a good idea). And if a place is within easy walking or driving distance, it's also typically faster to just pick it up yourself.

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When you pick up the food, you control how fast it hits your table. No waiting around for the driver to fight traffic, arrive at the restaurant, find parking, figure out which order is yours, load it into their bag, grab any other orders they might be handling, and then make all their other deliveries on their way to you. I can't tell you how many times I waited more than an hour for delivery from a restaurant that's right around the corner before conceding that pickup was the way to go. Now, I get my food within 10 minutes, still hot.

Reduce waste

Perhaps the most pressing problem with takeout food, though, is its environmental impact. All those plastic and paper containers surely can't be good for the environment. The obvious solution here is to simply order less takeout, but that solution doesn't necessarily allow us to support our local businesses. There are ways to minimize your footprint when you simply have to have your fix.

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Whenever possible, tell the restaurant to skip the napkins and utensils and use your own instead. Uber Eats requires customers to specifically request utensils when they replace an order.

Many restaurants are exploring more sustainable packaging options, too. The Washington Post noted in 2020 that some restaurants have switched to containers that are recyclable and reusable. One D.C.-area restaurant even began using containers made from sugar cane that are 100% compostable.

"It's a reminder it will cycle back into life," the restaurant's chef told the paper, "whereas plastic will be there forever."

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