It's early Ramadan days yet, but sooner or later, home-cooked meals weighing down the iftar table will begin to lose their appeal. The novelty of thinking up new dishes to cook will wear off, and cleaning up the evidence of the cooking frenzy in the hours leading up to sunset will quickly become intolerable.
Fast food to the rescue.
This is where Food on Click foodonclick.com, an online ordering service operating throughout Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, really does come into its own. The premise is simple: the website provides a means for viewing multiple restaurant menus and ordering from them via the internet, thus eliminating the need for a telephone conversation. Which, according to Food on Click's regional chief executive Shekhar Rao, means far less hassle.
The added bonus? There is no additional charge for ordering food through Food on Click rather than directly from the restaurant.
The website was inspired by, and is affiliated with, yemeksepeti.com, a Turkish company that was set up more than 10 years ago and has since become one of the world's largest online food delivery websites, processing some 35,000 to 40,000 orders per day. While the UAE version doesn't operate on such a grand scale, Rao says that the first year in business has "exceeded our expectations".
"We have more visits to the site, registered users and orders being processed than we imagined," he says. "In Dubai, we have 500-plus restaurants on board, providing 20 different types of cuisine."
While the Abu Dhabi and Sharjah sites - which were launched in the spring - don't quite boast the same array of choice (around 75 and a 100 restaurants respectively), they are, Rao says, growing by the day.
He estimates that Food on Click currently has almost 10,000 registered users (you must register to be able to place an order) and says that 75 per cent of these are return customers, meaning that the company processes between 7,000 to 8,000 orders a month. Customers are generally attracted to the site through simple searches on Google; type the words "pizza" or "burger delivery" and "Dubai" into the search bar and the website soon springs up. As one would expect from an online company, it also has its social-media bases covered, with 2,000 Facebook fans and almost the same number of Twitter followers.
Now numbers and statistics are all well and good, but is the ordering process as stress-free as it sounds?
Yes, says Fiona Du Vivier, a Dubai-based marketing and events manager who uses the service once or twice a week and has recommended it to various friends.
"The site graphics aren't the most mind-blowing, but it's incredibly easy to use and shows you all of the options. It's so useful having all those menus in one place."
This opinion is seconded by Katy Rodgers, who lives on Palm Jumeirah.
"The simple layout of the website means it's easy to navigate and the number of restaurants and range of cuisines is impressive. I particularly like the fact that it saves your previous orders, so when you're short on time, these can be repeated quickly and easily."
As a first time Food on Click user, I must agree. Once you log on to the site, it takes a couple of minutes to create a profile before the search for your meal can begin. Specify your region and cuisine preference from a drop-down tab and a list of restaurants fulfilling those credentials appears. From then on, it's plain sailing: find the restaurant you want to order from (in my case Pizza Express), click on dishes to add to your basket and then head to the checkout stage where you can convey any special requirements before sending the order into cyberspace.
At this point, I felt rather dubious. People struggle to find my flat at the best of times, so I couldn't imagine that without my usual, long, drawn-out explanation this was going to be a success. But fewer than 45 minutes later (within the delivery time specified), the pizzas arrived. I have since used the site to order from two other restaurants and each time the process has been glitch-free.
The website stores addresses, so you only have to provide the information once and register more than one location, differentiating between work and home. Rao tells me that some customers order breakfast, lunch and dinner from Food on Click and while that seems excessive (surely yoghurt and cereal can suffice in the morning?), I can see the appeal of regular use.
What happens if there is a problem, however? Rao concedes that there have been teething issues - orders taking longer to be delivered than specified, for example - but says that in these instances, it's in the company's interest to pacify customers and ensure they are recompensed. As soon as an order is placed online, it is transmitted to the restaurant, by fax or email, and to the Food on Click call centre, where it is monitored. So in theory, a customer service adviser should get in touch if a problem arises.
Du Vivier has experienced something similar: "I once had a problem with a Subway order and I complained on the site. Someone spoke to me in person immediately on their chat feature and I had two phone calls explaining what had gone wrong and how they were fixing it. [It was] fixed within the hour."
Although I didn't have any issues with the orders I placed, I did find the lack of interaction a little unnerving. The first time a customer uses the site, they receive a telephone call from a company representative, but after that, it's radio silence until the food arrives. While I appreciate that part of the appeal here is making phone conversations obsolete, an email or text message to confirm that the restaurant has received the order or even a notification when it is dispatched would help ease worries.
Rick Smith, who lives in Downtown Dubai, says that when he used the website, he decided to call the restaurant himself.
"I wanted to know exactly how long it would take. Also, you have a weird feeling ordering online because you are never 100 per cent sure that the order has gone through."
Although each restaurant specifies a delivery time, you have no way of gauging how busy the restaurant really is, or how reliable their estimated delivery time.
Despite having to make that extra call for his own peace of mind, Smith still appreciates the site for the information it provides on new fast-food restaurants. He believes that more regular use would boost confidence in the service. "If you used it everyday, for example at work," he says, "it might be less of a worry."
So the next time you end up frustrated after phoning a delivery order through, or find that a request for extra tomatoes but no mushrooms in your panini was lost in translation, it might be worth logging on and giving Food on Click a try.