Unstoppable Food Delivery

The growth of home food delivery and the transformation of the catering sector

Michela Russo, Giulia Pagani

In the last twenty years there have been profound changes in our society dictated by the economic situation, changes in our lifestyle and the needs of the population. These changes have inevitably influenced the way in which people consume their food.

The consumption of fast food has increased as a result of increased employment and working hours. People's pace of life has become more hectic as a result of this situation. For this reason, no one has free time in order to pursue their interests. As a result, over the past few years, companies have concentrated on creating services that reduce the time spent on certain activities, such as lunch breaks or shopping at the supermarket. As a matter of fact, there are now applications through which you can order a meal and have it delivered to your home. Italians’ lifestyle, especially in large cities, where long distances often make work and personal commitments incompatible, is becoming more and more an obstacle when it comes to cooking for lunch or dinner. The alternatives are going to a restaurant, the more classic alternative, or order takeaway. Food delivery has always existed, but only in recent years it has become a consolidated market with great growth prospects, especially thanks to the support of the Internet and mobile phone’s apps. Through food delivery apps, anyone can buy products from their home or office, rather than in physical stores. People have several benefits using these services such as avoiding crowds, reducing waiting times and avoiding physical travel to the stores. Those who don't have time to take a lunch break, as they are too busy working, can order any dish they want through a mobile app on their smartphone and within minutes they will find it on their desk.

box of food delivered
The closest I’ve been to a diet this year is erasing food searches from my browser history.

These apps can also be useful for those who have mobility problems, such as the elderly and disabled, or for those who return home late in the evening and, having an empty fridge, decide to use food delivery services. Moreover, there are people who decide to use these services due to bad weather conditions that prevent them from going out to dinner. These are just a few examples that make us realize why these apps are certainly a convenience. However, food delivery services already existed before the development of the Internet, for example ordering a pizza in a restaurant and having it delivered to your home was a thing even before the invention of food delivery apps. This system has had a huge success, which is why it has been increasingly imitated. This has led to a wide range of food delivery services: pizza, restaurants, sushi, ethnic food and so on. Given the popularity and complexity of food delivery service options, platforms such as Just Eat were born.

delivery food apps
There are so many food delivery apps

They operate by aggregating home delivery offers in the neighboring geographical area. These companies, in their initial version, operated as intermediaries, giving the customer the possibility to choose who to refer to and place the order, but the preparation of the dish and logistics were the shop or restaurant’s responsibility. The platforms were subsequently developed. In fact, the platforms began to implement delivery independently from restaurants. Foodora and Deliveroo are examples of companies that carry out this business model. Not only do they allow you to choose the food you prefer from the various points of sale on the platform, but they also provide for logistics. By operating in this way, they also allow smaller stores with fewer customers to access online sales. The latest innovations in the sector are the numerous startups such as Sprig, PizzaBo, Foodinho or Diet to Go. These apps provide an integrated service by creating something that nowadays the customer looks for and prefers in every purchase: a personalized shopping experience.

Food delivery apps have even reached Italy and have become a thriving market.

Are there many food delivery users in Italy? According to data from the Italian Federation of Public Exercises, 30.2% of Italians have ordered lunch or dinner online from food delivery platforms. Almost a third of the population. Surely the best apps for food delivery in Italy are: Just eat, Deliveroo and Glovo. 1

In almost all the apps, after downloading them and creating your account by activating the geolocation, you can see which restaurants are open and available in the area. After that you select the desired restaurant and place your order in a few seconds; the delivery of the ordered food is guaranteed within about 30 minutes. The shipment is made in a specially designed packaging so as not to alter the taste of the dishes. Another great advantage is also the ease of payment, made by credit card or PayPal, with the possibility of registering your data to facilitate any future orders. In some food delivery services there is also the possibility to pay cash on delivery. Another very interesting thing that you can do when ordering take-away food is the customization of the order, which is made to order directly on the site: ideal for vegans and celiacs.

When it comes to food delivery, we cannot help but to mention the phenomenon of dark kitchens. It's not, as it might seem, a horror TV series, it's just the evolution of food delivery.

The mania for food delivery has changed, obviously also the work of restaurateurs. Kitchens devote much more time to the preparation of dishes for delivery, this has led to an average increase in revenue of 15%. The collaboration between food delivery platforms and caterers, however, is not limited to the dishes’ preparation and delivery. The most interesting fact about the collaboration between apps and restaurants is the impact of big data on catering. The platforms record thousands of pieces of information every day which, once processed, can be used to optimize investments. 2

food delivered
It's much better to order a hamburger and have it delivered at home in two minutes.

The difference between virtual and dark kitchens is that virtual kitchens aim to satisfy the demand coming from a certain area and are managed by several caterers. If, for example in the central area of a metropolis Indian food, hamburgers and ice cream are in great demand, the manager will decide to open a virtual kitchen where he brings together restaurateurs able to meet this demand. Dark kitchens, on the other hand, are managed exclusively by a single restaurateur who can decide to open a virtual branch for two reasons: either because his physical restaurant can no longer meet the demands of "real" and virtual customers at the same time or because he wants to expand his business without opening a new location, with all the costs that this entails. Italy virtual and dark kitchens are still not very widespread. The only experiments are those of Rose & Mary in Milan and the Deliveroo Editions project, which has allowed several Italian restaurateurs to export their menus dedicated to delivery without opening a physical restaurant. 3

In 2022, the food delivery market is expected to grow to a turnover of 2 billion euros.

The phenomenon of food delivery in a hectic society like ours is difficult to stop if not impossible. In 2017 the food delivery market reached 201 million euros, according to the B2C e-commerce Observatory of the Politecnico of Milan. The number of customers has also increased and exceeded 4 million users in 2018. In 2022, the food delivery market is expected to grow to a turnover of 2 billion euros. At this rate, a report by the Swiss investment bank UBS states that by 2030, food delivery will "kill the kitchen". 4

online food delivery apps
It's so hard to choose from the many restaurants that are close to you.

In the next years cooking may no longer be a necessity and this could revolutionize not only our lives, but also the architecture of our homes where the space for the kitchen could almost disappear. Reality or science fiction? The answer is far from obvious, even in a country like ours, which has made the food and wine variety its specialty.