Anxiety When Ordering Food Over the Phone? Here’s Why and What You Can Do About it.


We have all done it and survived to tell the tale. Ordering food over the phone is a common, everyday occurrence. But for some of us, making the call for tasty take-out is an excruciating task. Why does dialing Domino’s cause some people so much angst?

Anxiety while ordering food over the phone is caused by performance anxiety and a subsequent fear of being judged. This fear is common and occurs more frequently in people that suffer from social anxiety.

Despite the growth in online ordering, there are still many instances where we need to order over the phone. Take our favourite local pizza place for example.

Family run for over 20 years, their pizza is second to none. They have a website with their menu items (thankfully) but no online ordering option.

We love their pizza so much that we won’t order from anywhere else and will even grin and bear the brusque manners of the owner when he answers the phone. And it’s almost always him that answers the darn phone.

As the elected phone call maker, I practice saying the order in my head and I write it down on paper. Inevitably I’ll hear the phone answered with “Pizza. What you want?!” and I’ll robotically go through the order until I can hang-up and breathe a sigh of relief.

So, What is Performance Anxiety?

Performance anxiety is defined as; fear about one’s ability to perform a specific task. People experiencing performance anxiety may worry about failing a task before it has even begun. They might believe failure will result in humiliation or rejection.

In the article The Psychology Behind Phone Anxiety, writer Nadia Imafidon explains performance anxiety as it relates to ordering food over the phone;

“Making a telephone call is a performance, so it’s likely that the anxiety associated with it is a type of performance anxiety. Talking on the phone can become an excruciating task if you’re susceptible to performance anxiety, making you afraid you’ll do it wrong, you’ll sound nervous, you’ll freeze up, or you’ll be rejected.”

She adds a quote from Dr. Sally Winston, Co-Director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland; “It’s (ordering over the phone) something that can subject you to the bad judgments of someone else, and the core fear is becoming humiliated.”

Also interviewed in the article, Clinical Director of the Light on Anxiety Treatment Center in Chicago, Dr. Debra Kissen offers an explanation as to why texting is preferable to talking on the phone;

“One explanation for this is the weirdly simultaneous distance and proximity of a phone chat; it’s a spontaneous, real-time conversation, but you don’t receive the facial cues you get when you’re face to face with someone. “Like right now we’re on the phone and I have no idea if you think I’m dumb or if I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m not getting a head nod or ongoing feedback that what I’m saying is acceptable to you.” 

What Does Ordering Anxiety Look Like?

I combed through the popular online forums to find out what people were saying about their experience with ordering food over the phone. After a bit of research, I noticed three common fears, all of which are rooted in performance anxiety and fear of judgement.

  1. Fear of judgement over their food choice.
  1. Fear of messing up the order and getting the wrong thing and/or having to repeat themselves. 
  1. Fear of not being understood by the person on the other end of the phone and wasting their time / making them annoyed or angry.

To illustrate, here are a few actual testimonies of real-life, food-ordering anxiety.

“I worry that they won’t be able to understand what I’m saying, or that I will say something wrong and sound stupid, or people will judge me for what I choose to eat.  Most of these fears have little to no basis in reality, but I feel anxious all the same.  I’ve often gone hungry because I’ve been too anxious to order something.”

Reddit Member

“I have a harder time calling and ordering food. I almost go into a panic every time I’m asked to call a pizza shop or Chinese takeout place. I’m worried I’ll sound like an idiot or someone won’t like what I ordered or that something in general will go wrong.” 

anxietycommuninty.com Member

“oh definitely, i hate even ordering food over the phone. i get so nervous and i’m always thinking i’m holding the people up and i feel bad about it. i end up making my siblings order for me.”

anxietycommuninty.com Member

Ways to Deal With Phone-Order Anxiety.

Along with their stories of phone-order angst, members of the forums offered up possible ways to deal with the problem as well. Here are the top three.

1. Re-Frame the Experience, Learn Not to Care.

Basically, this means that the person on the other end of the phone is too busy doing their job to care about what you are ordering or if you make a mistake ordering.

As someone who has suffered from social anxiety and worked in the food industry, I know this is true. As a customer, I’ve wasted countless hours worrying about how I look and sound placing my order and yet as an employee serving food, I never judged anyone who seemed to be having a hard time, if I even noticed them in the first place. 

Try repeatedly reminding yourself that the spotlight you feel yourself in while ordering is one of your own creation, no one else’s.

“No one cares a single thing about your silence, what you’re ordering, or the difficulty you have spitting out your order. Most are so unobservant that they probably don’t notice, even if they would, they wouldn’t give a second worth of thinking about any of the above.”

Reddit Member

“Realizing that people don’t necessarily pick up on or care about the awkwardness that you create inside your head was an essential part of overcoming my anxiety. Ordering now doesn’t seem that big of a deal. And even if I mess up, I know they don’t care.”

Reddit Member

2. Face Your Fears Through Practice

Forcing yourself to practice what you are afraid of, even in small increments is a very effective way to conquer a fear. When you’re overcoming a fear or learning new ways to respond to situations, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

“That’s how you create new circuitry in your brain so that the fear circuitry doesn’t come first—it’s the new experiences that eventually take over.”

Dr. Sally Winston

 

To overcome fear of ordering over the phone, try practicing ordering when you’re alone. Try to do it as often as possible, in the car, in front of the mirror. Choose different scenarios to tackle, pick different restaurants. 

You can even imagine your worst case scenario and how you would handle it. Even if that means hanging up and hiding under your bed, so be it. You can always try again tomorrow.

“I forced myself to create situations that were out of my comfort zone. I started by asking for Whoppers at McDonalds and Big Macs at Burger Kings. This got me to realize that the people who I’m talking to don’t really care about what you’re saying or doing, and don’t think it’s a big deal when you order something that’s not on the menu. When they respond with, “Uhh, we don’t serve that here.”, it is simple to respond “Oh, sorry.” and keep going.”

Reddit Member

3. Online Ordering

When all else fails, you can avoid ordering on the phone altogether by placing your order online. 

Chances for error are greatly reduced using online systems and photos of food make it easier to decide on what you want. There are no time constraints while you choose, no one waiting for an answer and no chance of someone not hearing you properly.

“I seriously don’t know how I’d get pizza without Domino’s online ordering service! I would rather starve than call to order food. I’m glad I’m not alone in my telephone anxiety!”

Reddit Member

For those that prefer to order online, you are certainly not alone. According to statistics posted on Upserve.com, online ordering is growing like crazy, especially during the Covid pandemic. 

  • Digital ordering and delivery have grown 300% faster than dine-in traffic since 2014.
  • Orders placed via smartphone and mobile apps will become a $38 billion industry by 2020
  • From February to April (Covid-19) there was a 169% increase in the number of restaurants actively using Online Ordering 
  • In large suburbs (not just urban areas), online ordering has grown 3,868% since February (Covid-19).

While not a solution to performance anxiety itself, ordering online has its own advantages while you work on conquering the phone and in fact, may replace other types of ordering altogether. But until then, try practicing the tips above.

So there you have it. You’re a performance artist and you didn’t even know it! If you still need to make phone calls to get your grub, it’s time to work on your stage fright.

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