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Satisfying the online food crave: The case of online food aggregators

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The food and beverage (F&B) sector has witnessed a significant rise in online food ordering and delivery companies. Through the consumer journey framework, this study aims to uncover the triggers pertaining to each stage in this journey. An exploratory qualitative research approach was adopted: semi‐structured interviews were conducted with 33 customers and 17 experts in the food industry from the Lebanese, Saudi Arabian and Emirati markets. A systematic understanding of the journey was devised alongside the triggers per stage to help both restaurants owners and online food aggregators to further develop their penetration and retention of customers using such platforms. The growing shift in emerging markets from ordering food over the phone to placing an order through OFAs has brought several implications on the customer purchase decision, as well as on the restaurants’ business perspectives. While this has had a dual growing impact both on the customer journey at large, and the way in which restaurants operate and market themselves, this field is yet under‐researched particularly in emerging markets in the Middle East.
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Int J Consum Stud. 2022;46:1413–1427. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/ijcs
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1 | INTRODUCTIO N
The current technology- driven era has been characterized by an un-
precedented rise in Internet penetration and usage at various paces
and in different parts of the global markets, coupled with an expo-
nential upsurge in smartphone ownership. This trend has boosted
globalization by minimizing the impact of physical and geographical
borders (Malik & Kapuria, 2020). The Internet is nowadays widely
used by individuals for innumerable purposes. Countless online solu-
tions have emerged and became part of one’s daily life, most notably
social media platforms, mobile applications, and the various chan-
nels of digital communication. The world’s 2.7 billion smartphone
users spend 90% of their time on their devices using apps; this devel-
opment has altered people’s lifestyles and transformed occasional
app use into a daily habit (Belanche et al., 2020). The significant
decrease in the usage of traditional media— with most users now fa-
vouring online sources— gave rise to an integrated, ever- connected
society (Markina et al., 2019). In order to adapt to this new market
reality and benefit from its ensuing opportunities, businesses had
to reconsider and modify the ways they operate and reach out to
their customer base. In fact, most leading companies have adopted
innovative online business strategies so as to recover from the unde-
niable declining sales through traditional channels (Ramadan, 2019).
This shift has particularly affected the food and beverage (F&B)
sector, which has largely adopted online communication tools to
reach out to their customers. In 2013, this has in turn led to the rise
of online food platforms, or what is commonly known as online food
aggregators (OFAs) allowing ordering and delivery, hence playing
the role of middlemen between restaurants and customers. Food
aggregators are apps/online portals that allow foodies to evaluate
menus, prices, posted reviews, as well as place orders via the app. In
the past few years, these OFAs have enhanced their operations to
act as new- delivery players offering delivery services for restaurants
through their own logistics networks and fleet of drivers (Hirschberg
Received: 21 August 2021 
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Revised: 15 November 2021 
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Accepted: 17 November 2021
DOI : 10.1111/ ijcs .12768
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Satisfying the online food crave: The case of online food
aggregators
Maya F. Farah | Zahy Ramadan | Jana Kanso
Adnan Kassar School of Business,
Department of Marketing, Lebanese
American University, Beirut, Lebanon
Correspondence
Maya F. Farah, Adnan Kassar School of
Business, Depar tment of Marketing,
Lebanese American University, Beirut, P O
Box: 13- 5053, Chouran, Beirut 1102 2801,
Lebanon.
Email: mfarah@lau.edu.lb
Abstract
The food and beverage (F&B) sector has witnessed a significant rise in online food or-
dering and delivery companies. Through the consumer journey framework, this study
aims to uncover the triggers pertaining to each stage in this journey. An exploratory
qualitative research approach was adopted: semi- structured interviews were con-
ducted with 33 customers and 17 experts in the food industry from the Lebanese,
Saudi Arabian, and Emirati markets. A systematic understanding of the journey was
devised alongside the triggers per stage to help both restaurants owners and on-
line food aggregators to further develop their penetration and retention of custom-
ers using such platforms. The growing shift in emerging markets from ordering food
over the phone to placing an order through OFAs has brought several implications on
the customer purchase decision, as well as on the restaurants’ business perspectives.
While this has had a dual growing impact both on the customer journey at large, and
the way in which restaurants operate and market themselves, this field is yet under-
researched particularly in emerging markets in the Middle East.
KEY WORDS
customer engagement, customer service, service delivery, service innovation, service strategy,
technology and service
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