Ordering food to your door has often led Korean novices to test their problem-solving skills.
Some ask a friend, some go to the restaurant with their address and phone number written down, while others take a gamble on their shaky Korean and hope they don’t get sent a pizza covered in jellybeans and a potato figurine of Guus Hiddink covered in gochujang.
Korea Bites aims to reduce the challenge. Specializing in delivery of takeout food and groceries, the website acts as a go-between for restaurants and expats with little in the way of language skills.
Korea Bites is part of a network of 1,000 restaurants throughout Korea that provide online ordering and delivery ― but only in Korean. Korea Bites is the sole English-language provider for the service.
Customers order as they would on any online shopping site, searching by area and food type using drop-down menus. The site is time-sensitive, so only restaurants that are open at the time you visit the site come up, to prevent hungry expats from having their appetites whet by unattainable dishes.
The order is emailed to the customer in English and to the restaurant in the language of their choice. Diners can pay either on delivery ― in cash or card, where available ― or by an online account.
To get around the problems expats have with setting up a Korean PayPal account, the site set up a BitesBucks system, which can be charged up by transfer and used to pay for things on the site.
The site is starting small ― for the moment only serving expat-heavy Seoul districts such as Yongsan, Gangnam and Gangdong ― but is looking to expand fast. Jonathan Carfield, senior partner of Korea Bites, expects to have added 120 restaurants to the site’s roster by the end of May.
That means adding new areas as well as new restaurants.
“Because of the small number of foreigners in each area, it doesn’t make sense to have 50 restaurants in one neighborhood,” said Carfield.
“With this network of restaurants we can see the order history from Koreans and pick the most popular restaurants,” he said, adding that they would choose two or three of each type for a given area.
In addition to simple food ordering, Carfield says the site will open a section that lets expats buy imported wine and beer, cheese and other tricky to track down items. The Market Bites section will start by catering to the Yongsan area, a service Carfield expects to get up and running by the third week of May.
By Paul Kerry (email@example.com
)A story in the Korea Herald on December said that delivery was free. However, there is a delivery charge on some items, and the service was not available at the time. — Ed.