The rise of on-demand services has upended nearly every industry, and food is no exception. Advances in technology have enabled consumers to request anything with the push of a button, from grocery delivery to home cleaning to restaurant takeout. While many restaurants have been slow to capitalize on this trend, some are taking it seriously, offering online ordering and even home or office deliveries. Others are tackling issues of sustainability and equity, using food delivery to support small-scale farmers, reduce waste and improve global health.
Online food delivery has become a popular option for people who want to avoid restaurant crowds, need to eat gluten-free or are simply too busy to dine in. These apps allow customers to order food from a wide range of local restaurants, providing convenient and customizable meals at an affordable price. Many of these services also offer deals and discounts to entice new customers. With so many options, it can be difficult to know which one to choose.
Food delivery services work by partnering with independent contractors to handle the delivery process. They typically offer a cashless experience, charging customers’ credit cards or digital wallets directly instead of asking customers to pay in person. They also save restaurants the trouble of hiring and training drivers, renting vehicles and maintaining insurance coverage. In some cases, these delivery service providers may also handle catering orders and other special event services, making them a viable option for restaurants looking to expand their reach.
GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats are the most popular food delivery services in the United States. They all offer a large selection of restaurant choices, along with convenience stores and alcohol purchases. Some also have specialized features, such as highlighting Black-owned businesses and showing users the types of cuisines that are most popular in their geographic area. In addition, a growing number of these delivery services are offering “dark kitchens” and other delivery-first or delivery-only restaurant models, which can cut operating costs and reduce customer service fees by eliminating the need for front-of-house staff.
While these services can increase a restaurant’s visibility, they can also place additional pressure on already-strained profit margins. The fees that they charge for online orders, as well as the delivery fees and service charges placed on customers, can significantly erode profits. Many traditional restaurants have been forced to scale back their delivery operations as a result of these pressures.
Some restaurant chains have opted to bypass third-party delivery services and set up their own delivery fleets. For example, a new startup called Garten has set up offices in major cities to provide healthy snacks, beverages and meals to workers, while also supporting local farms and reducing food waste. Another company, Oh My Green, focuses on the corporate market, connecting companies with healthier alternatives so they can continue feeding their employees even when dining rooms are closed or operating at reduced capacity. Some restaurant brands have even retrained furloughed front-of-house staff to deliver food during the government shutdown.