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As much as I try to make my lunch at home the night before work, it can be tough. In between walking my dogs, finishing up some work emails, going for a swim and, oh yes, trying to have a few minutes to relax, I don’t always have the time or energy to cook. That’s when I turn to my handy phone. The plethora of food order and delivery apps available these days could make your head spin – or at least your stomach grow. DoorDash, SkipTheDishes, and UberEats are just a few of the apps that have helped normalize what used to be an indulgent treat of having food brought straight to you. One in particular caught my eye just over a year ago and I’ve been using it off and on ever since.
Ritual is a Toronto-based app that allows you to place meal orders at nearby restaurants and pick them up without having to wait in line. While some (myself included) initially questioned why people would want to order food for pick up when you could just have it delivered, I find myself going back to Ritual time and time again. Here’s why:
- It’s convenient. Ritual saves you time by allowing you to order from your favourite nearby restaurants without having to go there, wait in line, and then wait for them to prepare your food. With Ritual, you can place your order from the office and continue working right up until the time your meal is ready. A quick walk to the restaurant and back and you’re all set. This has proven very helpful during those busy work days when you don’t have a minute to spare, but you also need to get a quick breath of fresh air.
- It’s a good icebreaker. Ritual is a good way to bond – and fast – with your office. By joining an office “team”, you can piggyback on each other’s orders so that one person brings back the food for everyone else. In my first week at a new job, a colleague immediately asked me if I wanted to join his Ritual team. By the end of that morning, our team had already chatted about their favourite places to eat, where to find the best deals, and who else from the office we could recruit. It made a fun morning out of what otherwise might have been a nerve-racking first day, and it’s made lunch a fun experience ever since.
- It’s easy to use. Ritual is a beautifully designed and intuitive app. You can scroll through nearby restaurants either on a map or in a list format, with cuisine type and distance from you clearly displayed. When you click on a restaurant, you’re provided with what’s arguably a full menu to choose from, complete with delicious pictures, prices, and ingredient lists so you can be sure to avoid any allergens. You simply add the number of each item you want to your cart, check-out (you can pay with Apple Pay or a good old stored credit card), and the app will tell you how long before your meal is ready to be picked up. Better than that, it will send you a notification when it’s time to start walking over, calculated based on how far away you are from the restaurant. The app is so easy (and secretly fun!) to use that the time I save waiting in line at restaurants, I probably use scrolling through the app looking for new, delicious lunch options. That, however, is by choice not by design.
- It’s healthy. Or rather, it can be healthy. Our individual food choices are up to each of us, but for those looking for healthier options Ritual does not disappoint. In my experience, most restaurants will offer at least one vegan or vegetarian option. Gluten-free and halal meals are also specially indicated. It might depend on your location, but from where I work in downtown Toronto, the options for delicious and healthy soups, salads, wraps, bowls, and more are abundant. I just need to remind myself to select them more often than the brisket poutine!
- You get rewards. This is one of the biggest draws of Ritual. For each order that you place, you get a certain number of points, and once you accumulate 10,000 points, you get $10 off your next Ritual order. You also get points when you let colleagues piggyback on your order, when you order a second time from the same restaurant, when you try a new spot, and when you report incorrect menu information. In addition to points, the app also offers ‘perks’, which give you discounted menu items at certain restaurants in exchange for points. This is where the value really adds up. Despite the fact that eating out is typically costlier than making lunch at home, the perks can definitely help you save money.
- It works. In all my time using Ritual, I’ve never once had any issues with it. No credit card problems. No wrong orders. No app crashes. Only once did I arrive at a restaurant and my order wasn’t ready, but the person preparing my meal seemed to be in training and was very apologetic so it’s hard to fault the app for that. It’s been a seamless and reliable experience through and through.
Ritual isn’t without its drawbacks. Privacy concerns have been raised about the app sharing users’ location, but as far as I can tell this is only shared within teams, and you can opt to leave a team at any time. I have, however, gotten notifications that teammates are ‘browsing’ the app for lunch, which I felt was too much information. I immediately double checked all of my own privacy settings.
I didn’t get it at first. I didn’t understand why people would need an app just to pre-order a meal for pickup. But after using Ritual over the past several months and across two office teams, it’s safe to say that I’m a convert. It may not be for everyone, but for those looking to save some time in their day, enjoy a healthy and diverse range of food for lunch, and have some fun with colleagues along the way, Ritual provides as good an experience as you can hope for.