How to Order Food in Korea
Some days, despite the sheer number of restaurants on almost every street in Seoul, going out to eat feels like too much effort. Perhaps it is raining, or the middle of winter, or you just don’t want to change out of your pajamas. Luckily, on those occasions, getting food delivered to your doorstep is easy in Korea. Korean food delivery is quite different from food delivery in other countries, so learning how the delivery system works can help save embarrassment.
Here, we’re going to break down how to order food in Korea so you can do it yourself and enjoy more independence in Korea (yummy, yummy independence).
What to order
It is quite common to come home and find a food menu taped to your door. This is how the restaurants advertise and bring in more business! If you keep these menus then you can quickly and simply build up a range of options for when you want to order food and you can have your own little collection! When you visit your favorite restaurant, if they have a takeout menu by the checkout then pick one up to add to your stockpile of food options.
Almost anything can be ordered in Korea. Only foods that you would cook yourself in a restaurant, such as 갈비 (galbi) or 삼겹살 (samgyeopsal), are off limits. Chinese food and Korean dishes like 김김치찌개 (kimchijjigae) and 불고기 (bulgogi) are popular choices, as is fried chicken, which will probably make up about half of your food menu collection.
If you are putting on a feast, you can splash out and order something like 보쌈 (bossam), a kind of steamed pork. The choice of restaurants that you can order from is almost limitless; there is even a chicken restaurant in Sokcho (on the east coast) that delivers to Seoul. Fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King also deliver.
With some restaurants, there is a minimum order, but usually this amount is quite low, such as five thousand won. Also, some places have a service charge, usually a thousand won, on orders below a certain value. If you really want to, you could order several Mcflurries and Coffees from McDonald’s to hit their minimum order price, so even these items can be delivered to your door.
How to order
The usual way to order is by phone. Don’t worry if your Korean isn’t great, all you need to know is what you want to order and where you live. When the restaurant answers your phone call, give your order in Korean, something simple like “양념치킨 한마리 or 불고기 이 인분” will suffice. The restaurant will then confirm your order and ask for your address. When giving your address, start at the neighborhood (동) level as most restaurants only deliver locally, so you don’t need to tell them which city you live in (McDonald’s uses a centralized system so is an exception to this). If you want to get an idea of what a phone call sounds like to a delivery place, take a look a the sample conversation at the bottom of this article.
If the deliveryman cannot find your home then he will call you so stay by the phone. Occasionally you might also receive a short call to let you know that the food is on its way. When calling the restaurant, you will also sometimes be asked if you want to pay by card (카드) or cash (현금) so that the deliveryman knows whether to bring the card reader machine or not.
Once you have used a delivery service once, the restaurant will usually have your details on record (unless they are a very small restaurant) so you don’t have to give them your address every time. Some places even know your delivery history so if you constantly order the same food they will just ask you if you want that. In that situation it is possible to order dinner just by phoning the restaurant and saying “네” two or three times.
Food Delivery in Korea is as Easy as 1-2-3
So now you’re ready to make the call. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for — your first food delivery call in Korea. Just follow these three steps:
- Choose What You Want to Order – just make sure you’re above the minimum delivery charge
- Have Your Korean Address Handy – just follow the link if you only know your English address
- Place the Call – you’re ready to order Korean food
Telephone Ordering Sample Script (With Translation)
Below is a detailed script that you can use for placing orders for food delivery. It covers most situations, so you can use pieces of it however you’d like.
This is an order for a half and half pizza so the order is a little more complex!
Most calls will not be this long unless you are ordering for the first time or you have a complex order. As you order more often, it will become simpler and simpler!
ORDER TAKER: _______ 피자입니다. 배달주문이세요? Hi, this is _______ Pizza. Is this an order for delivery?
CALLER: 네. 배달이에요. Yes, for delivery.
ORDER TAKER: 네. 주소 먼저 말씀해주시겠어요? Ok. Can you let me know your address first?
CALLER: 주소는 _______구_______동_______번지 101호요. My address is ___________.
ORDER TAKER: 네. 어떤 걸로 도와드릴까요? Ok. What can I get for you today?
CALLER: “하프앤하프”로 주세요. Half and half pizza please.
ORDER TAKER: 네. 도우랑 사이즈랑 피자 선택해주세요. Ok. Please choose the dough and what size you’d like.
CALLER: 피자는 “베이컨체다치즈”랑요 “리얼바베큐”로 주세요. Bacon Cheddar Cheese and Real Barbeque please.
ORDER TAKER: 사이즈는 어떤 걸로 해드릴까요? And what size would you like?
CALLER: 라지로 주세요. Large size please.
ORDER TAKER: 네, 할인카드나 음료나 사이드 메뉴 따로 추가 없으세요? Ok. Do you have a discount card or would you like to add a drink or any side menu items?
CALLER: 음료는 콜라 1.5리터짜리 하나 주시고요. Yes, I’d like a 1.5 L cola please.
ORDER TAKER: 저희 1.25리터짜리 밖에 없는데 괜찮으세요? We only have 1.25 L, is that ok?
CALLER: 그러면 1.25리터짜리 주시고요. Yes, then please give me 1.25 L.
ORDER TAKER: 네. Yes.
CALLER: 디핑소스 하나 추가 할게요. Also, I’d like to add one extra dipping sauce.
ORDER TAKER: 잠시만요. 할인카드나 쿠폰 소지하고 계신가요? One moment please. Do you have a discount card or a coupon?
CALLER: 할인카드는 없어요. I don’t have a discount card.
ORDER TAKER: 결제 현금이세요, 카드세요? How would you like to pay – cash or card?
CALLER: 카드로 결제할게요. I will pay by card.
ORDER TAKER: 네. 배달사원 방문 시 결제 부탁 드리겠습니다. Ok, when the delivery man arrives, please pay to him.
CALLER: 네. 감사합니다. Yes, thank you.
ORDER TAKER: 감사합니다. 맛있게 드세요. Thank you, bon appetite!
Food Delivery Smartphone Apps
If you really don’t want to speak Korean over the phone, or if you have lost your voice from an over-ambitious attempt to sing an IU song in the 노래방 the night before, then rather than phoning a restaurant, you can place your order using a smartphone app. There are several apps that you can use, but one of the most popular is ‘Yogiyo’ (named after what you shout at Korean waiters when you want something).
Ordering food using Yogiyo is so easy that if you were on a diet before downloading the app, then your diet has now just become a thousand times more difficult. After creating an ID, ordering food from yogiyo is as simple as finding the food you want, adding it to your shopping basket, and hitting send. The apps front page is divided into the most common categories of food that can be ordered (pizza, chicken, Chinese, Japanese etc.) so finding what you want to eat is simple.
Food Delivery Etiquette
Korean food delivery has its own etiquette that may be surprising if you’ve never ordered in Korea before. Soon, you’ll get used to it and enjoy the benefits on a regular basis. Be aware of the following three things when ordering food in Korea:
First, you will be glad to know that like in Korean restaurants, no tip is required when you get food delivered.
Due to the density of Seoul, the restaurant that you are ordering from is likely very close, so there is no need for any kind of ‘we delivery in 30 minutes or your food is free’ kind of guarantees. Sometimes your food will arrive in an improbably fast time like ten minutes or less.
Easy Clean Up
Rather than using paper and foil takeaway boxes, delivered food often arrives in regular bowls with metal cutlery. These are supposed to be returned to the restaurant so when you finish your meal, put all of the dishes into the box or blue plastic bag provided and leave this outside your door (note that this doesn’t apply to McDonald’s: leaving your old Big Mac wrappers and Mcflurry cones in the brown McDonald’s bag outside your door is a sure way to make yourself unpopular with your neighbors).
A few hours later, somebody will come to collect these dishes. Sometimes, if you don’t eat straight away, the person will come too early to collect the dishes, so you might have to explain that you haven’t finished eating yet. The best thing about Korean food delivery is that you don’t need to clean these dishes. Just put them outside your door and enjoy your new life free from doing the washing-up!
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