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Is the ordering experience worth the phone call?

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For the abundance of order-out options that Montreal offers, the quality of the ordering experience can be described in varying degrees of mundanity. While the city offers a variety of variable and acceptably interesting takeout experiences, its phone ordering offerings devolve into a white-noise-like mess of addresses and estimated times. Once you’ve ordered one hot dog from Alto’s, you’ve ordered them all.

From this world of unimaginative greetings and predictable questions emerges Restaurant Boustan, a fine establishment serving Lebanese cuisine, but located west of campus. For such an establishment, ordering is the only thinkable option, and so, the quality of the ordering experience becomes of paramount importance.

The first point of contact with Boustan is through its menu, which is conveniently located online, on the restaurant’s website. The offerings of the menu are organized into columns, with prices next to them. This is a logical way of organizing menu items as it allows the potential customer to identify how much each food item costs. For example, the customer can easily deduce that a shish taouk trio is $6.90. Sometimes, the menu items are accompanied by photos. One assumes these photos correspond to the menu items; this is also a rational design choice, as it allows the customer to visualize their options. Furthermore, the items are separated into various subsections, like Appetizers and Couscous. This allows the customer to target specific types of food or plan a multi-course meal. However, the lack of inclusion of tax and tip – a fact this reporter discovered at a late stage in the ordering game, upon payment at time of delivery – is a massive oversight and seriously jeopardizes the success of this menu.

The Boustan website promises a unique experience through the use of the internet as a means of communicating desired menu items. When one attempts to select this option, however, they are greeted only with a message, bolded and italicized, in large yellow font, informing them that the option is “coming soon.” Alas, one is only left the meager option of communication by phone.

The phone call to Boustan is just what you’d expect, if you expect to talk to someone on the phone who takes your order for food and then tells someone else so that they can bring you the food. For a phone call, the relatively clear connection and question about your location make it a reasonable way to order food with the expectation that you’ll receive it. The whole exchange takes about two minutes, making it just about the same as any other ordering experience you’ll ever have. The lack of uniqueness in the telephonic interaction is slightly off-putting, but one can perhaps find it in themselves to appreciate at least the efficiency of the whole thing.

Some time later, a phone call will emerge from the ether, contacting the customer at the specified phone number, alerting them to the arrival of their food. The wait totalled around 45 minutes, though this is understandable, as the restaurant is located on Crescent, which is farther than say, if it were located just across Sherbrooke. The food is warm upon arrival, which is a good indication that it was “made-to-order.”

From beginning to end, the ordering experience offered by Boustan is slightly above mediocre, but fails to dazzle. While the potential for future internet-mediated ordering is intriguing, at present the clarity and logical organization of the menu can only go so far to bring this establishment’s quality of phone interaction above average.