More than 20% of food delivery customers claim they encounter a problem with their order

Is delivering food in Columbus worth it? Drivers for apps say orders are up and tips down

More than 20% of food delivery customers claim they encounter a problem with their order

Drivers for third-party delivery apps such as Uber Eats, DoorDash and GrubHub  experienced a flood of orders at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, as restaurants closed for in-person dining and patrons largely decided to enjoy their meals at home.

Carryout and delivery orders have surged, but the spike in demand for their services hasn’t resulted in a windfall, drivers said.

More orders initially meant higher pay for many, but as more drivers joined the apps, competition increased and customers seemed less willing to sign for a tip, drivers said. Services pay commission the cost of an order, but drivers said that many orders aren't worth taking without a gratuity.

DoorDash added 1.9 million new drivers between mid-March and September of last year, a spokesperson said.

“I feel that there was quite an upswing in people signing up for these services,” said Nate Vanderhoof, a 42-year-old Uber Eats driver who lives on the Far East Side. “It’s fairly easy to make money. You go out and drive when you want, stop when you want. There's no set schedule.”

Drivers said they are making just as much money as they did before the pandemic, despite a surge in business.

“It’s been better and worse,” said Alyssa Jones, 26, of Ashville. Drivers get “more offers, but no one wants to tip.”

More: Columbus restaurants win city measure limiting food-delivery fees

Tips are crucial

Food delivery drivers for third-party delivery apps are independent contractors who get paid per delivery, making their salaries dependent on the volume of deliveries — and tips — rather than hours worked.

“I'm on a couple of the Uber pages, and that's one of the complaints, that there’s a lot of rideshare drivers,” Vanderhoof said. “They talk about the good old days when there weren't as many drivers, they were a lot busier and they would make more money.”

The apps said the total tips drivers received increased in 2020, according to their statistics. Across GrubHub and the GrubHub-owned Seamless, customers tipped an average of 15% more, company spokesman Grant Klinzman said.

“So if a diner was tipping 20% before, they tipped more than 22% during the pandemic,” he said in an email.

Order sizes, which also typically mean higher tips, also have increased following the coronavirus outbreak, he said.

Klinzman said the company doesn’t release information on its pay rates, but stressed that GrubHub helps drivers calculate their pay rate through its website.

Column: If you want to help local restaurants, don't use delivery services Grubhub or Uber Eats

Paying the bills

Most of the drivers contacted for this story said they work part-time, supplementing income from other jobs. A minority said they depend on third-party delivery services to pay their bills. Those are the drivers who said they struggle the most.

Jones said she started delivering for GrubHub, UberEats and DoorDash after her daughter was diagnosed with autism. Frequent and irregularly scheduled doctor's appointments made a full-time job with traditional hours impossible.

“I couldn't work a full-time job with her appointments, and she needed extra help at home,” she said.

Third-party delivery services afforded her the chance to work on her own schedule, but when asked whether she makes enough to pay her bills, Jones said, “It depends on the tips, but mostly no.”

Jones said she often is stuck working long hours now that customers are less generous, and she finds herself holding out for larger deliveries and bigger tips to make ends meet.

Vanderhoof drives for Uber and Uber Eats to supplement income from his primary job. But when he was unemployed for several months at the height of the pandemic, the apps were his only income.

“In an eight-hour shift, my goal would be to make a minimum of $100,” he said. But to achieve that, “I would usually go past” eight hours of work time.

Vanderhoof earned enough to pay his bills, but it was tight.

“I learned how to budget pretty good,” he said. “If I had big bills coming, I knew that I had to drive more, stay out longer, and drive during the most opportune times.”

Even so, Vanderhoof said he s the work and feels the money he makes more than offsets the cost of gas and car maintenance. Services pay a commission for each delivery, but drivers are responsible for gas, car repair and maintenance, and insurance.

Tracking expenses

Sarah Dygert, 36, of Victorian Village, said she was able to make ends meet driving for DoorDash full-time by working out an intricate system. She tracks the location and hours she worked and the orders she received to identify the best times and places to work.

“If you're willing to put in the work and keep driving and keep accepting orders, then it’s all based around when you want to work,” she said.

Dygert worked as a bartender and server for the District Pourhouse in the Gateway District near Ohio State University’s campus. But the bar and restaurant closed when Gov. Mike DeWine shuttered most nonessential businesses in mid-March, and Dygert found herself unemployed.

She said the money she made delivering meals completely replaced her salary and tips from the District Pourhouse, helping her pay her bills and save a small amount of money once her obligations were met.

Richard Figley, 68, of Clintonville, delivered for food apps before the pandemic as a supplement to his Social Security checks. He is one of the few drivers who said he subtracted the cost of gas and car repair from his overall income, and he was unimpressed with the results.

Figley is an Air Force veteran who works as a marketing consultant.

“If you take into account wear and tear on your car and everything else that goes into it, you come out making about $10 an hour,” he said. “It looks good because you have a lot of cash, but if you put it into an Excel spreadsheet (comparing expenses with revenue), you quickly find out that you're not making any money.”

Volume vs. quality

The commission attached to a delivery depends on the size of the order, and drivers said they see more orders for inexpensive fast food meals now that Ohioans are mostly staying home.

Drivers have different philosophies on small orders. Some take as many deliveries as they can, others hold out for the most expensive meals.

“Any opportunity is a good opportunity for me,” Vanderhoof said. “Sometimes it's a super short ride where I'm only pulling in $3 for a couple miles. To me, that means it was quick, and I can move on to the next ride.”

Cassandra Flore, 36, of Gahanna takes a different approach, one she gradually honed in her nearly three years driving for DoorDash and UberEats.

“I'm a single mom, and I needed a second job that let me work when it was convenient,” she said.

The search for a side gig led her to Uber, a ride-share service that pays drivers a commission for each ride. The service introduced her to UberEats a few years ago.

“I hated it at first, but then I really got into it,” she said. 

“I've been doing it for so long, I learned tricks of the trade,” she said. “When I first started doing it, I thought you had to accept everything they sent you. I realized a year later that you don't really get penalized for declining trips.”

The services incentivize drivers to take every order, offering perks to those who don’t refuse deliveries. But drivers overwhelmingly said those perks aren't worth it.

DoorDash, for example, bestows “Top Dasher” status on those who accept the most orders. The service won’t let drivers take deliveries in certain neighborhoods with too many active drivers. But a “Top Dasher” can take deliveries anywhere.

Columbus, however, is so busy, neighborhoods are rarely off-limits for long, Flore said.

“The benefit is not good enough,” she said.

Customer complaints seem to have surged along with food orders, drivers said. While drivers aren’t financially liable if a customer says their food was cold or didn’t arrive on time and asks for their money back, too many complaints can get a driver kicked off the platform.

To ensure prompt deliveries, driver Jennifer Nelson, who delivers for UberEats and DoorDash, said the apps give drivers a strict schedule.

“When you're given an order, you are given a time that you need to pick up by and then a time that you need a drop off by,” she said. “So both Uber and DoorDash pretty much control the timing of everything.”

Despite the expansion in the ranks of third-party delivery drivers, the apps aren’t an option for everyone.

Figley, for example, decided the odds of contracting coronavirus are too great a risk and stopped driving near the beginning of the pandemic.

“I’ve got some health issues, and if I got COVID, that would be really problematic,” he said.



2021 Food Delivery Service Statistics You Need to Know

More than 20% of food delivery customers claim they encounter a problem with their order

The online food delivery market has changed considerably. Once the domain of fast-food, pizza and our favourite cuisines from across the world, it now includes coffee, desserts and breakfasts.

This is thanks largely to the speed with which third-party food delivery services such as Deliveroo and Just Eat have capitalised on the market. But that isn’t where the story ends.

If you’re a restaurateur, cafe owner or hotelier, you might be wondering how you can add online ordering and delivery to your own business plan and make it a profitable endeavour.

The good news is that you can do just that, and we’ve even created a guide to get you started:

FREE DOWNLOAD: WiFi Marketing Guide for Hospitality Businesses

However, we appreciate you might need a better reason to get involved, rather than simply “because everyone’s doing it”. So, here are the most important food delivery service statistics that will inspire and help you choose between third-party assistance or an entirely in-house operation.

A deep dive into the UK food delivery market

Takeaways remain one of the most popular forms of dining in the UK. Thanks to their convenience and the emergence of new technology, it now contributes considerably to the country’s economy.

Here are the UK delivery stats that matter:

  • 8.5 billion: the value of the foodservice delivery market in 2019
  • Just Eat: the most popular online food delivery provider during 2019
  • 11 million: the forecasted number of online food delivery users in 2020
  • £5.40: the average weekly spend on takeaway meals by Brits
  • 7.5 billion: the number of food deliveries made in the UK during 2019
  • 39%: the increase in UK food deliveries over the last three years
  • 1.6 million: the cumulative extra meals sold each week thanks to third-party delivery platforms
  • 10%: the percentage of turnover many restaurants are comfortable devoting to delivery

Source: Food delivery and takeaway market in the United Kingdom (UK) – Statistics & Facts (Statista)Source: UK restaurant takeaway sector 2020 growing faster than any other (Hospitality and Catering News)Source: What do the 2020s hold for restaurant delivery? (Big Hospitality)

Online food delivery in the US – the key statistics

The US food delivery market has always produced huge numbers. Whether or not you agree that it has long been at the forefront of dine-at-home ordering, it’s hard to ignore the importance of the following statistics for the industry as a whole.

  • $26,527 million: the total value of online food deliveries expected in 2020
  • 20.2%: the year-on-year growth experienced in the US food delivery market
  • $30 billion: the amount of spend on US restaurant delivery each year
  • 10%: the number of Americans using a delivery service at least one a week
  • 70%: the share of Americans who order food for delivery
  • Grubhub: the largest online delivery service in the US, gross sales
  • 199,549: the number of quick service restaurant franchises in operation
  • $11 billion: the total consumer spend on pizza delivery

We’ve come quite a way since Pizza Hut launched its first ever store back in 1994, eh?

Interesting fact: the US still lags some distance behind the world’s biggest food delivery market, which is China, at $51,514 million

Source: Online Food Delivery (Statista)Source: Food delivery industry in the U.S. – Statistics & Facts (Statista)

What do customers want from food delivery?

In 2019, US Foods ran a fascinating study on customer expectation from food delivery services.

Surveying over 1,500 American adults, the food distributor focused its questions on people who used services such as Grubhub, UberEats and Postmates.

We’ve picked out the top ten stats that emerged from the study.

  1. The average person has two food delivery apps on their smartphone and uses them three times a month.
  2. UberEATS was the most popular app, followed by Grubhub and DoorDash.
  3. 40 minutes is the longest acceptable wait, on average, for delivery.
  4. 1.5 miles is the shortest distance people will still opt for delivery over takeout.
  5. $8.50 is the most people will pay for the delivery fee, service fee and tip combined.
  6. The food not being warm and/or fresh ranked as the biggest complaint by diners.
  7. 85% of customers would tamper-evident labels to mitigate instances of drivers taking food from their order.
  8. 63% of people are more ly to tip through the app, rather than cash in person.
  9. 60% of deliverers ranked a low or no tip as their biggest gripe.
  10. 53% of people tip differently the weather.

To go in-house or third-party?It’s one of the hardest strategies to get right when entering the food delivery sector.

Should you undertake the delivery service yourself or bring in the help of a third-party company such as Just Eat or Deliveroo?

There are pros and cons for both. Doing it yourself avoids any commissions you’ll have to pay the delivery company and provides you with complete control. However, a third-party service will have everything in place to get you up and running quickly and provides drivers so you don’t have to use your own vehicles.

It’s a tough one, but here are a few stats that might help sway your decision either way.

  • 78% of US food delivery orders are placed via the restaurant itself, compared to 22% through third-party services
  • Using third-party delivery services has been found to increase restaurant sales by 10 to 20% in some cases
  • 31% of consumers say they use a third-party delivery service at least twice a week
  • 80% of customers say they’ll blame the restaurant if something goes wrong, rather than the delivery company
  • third-party services typically take 30% or more (plus taxes) on orders
  • £1 – £5 is the average cost of delivery in the UK

Source: Third-party or in-house food delivery: pros and cons (deliverect)Source: Restaurant owners in Britain call on Deliveroo to drop commission fees (CNBC)Source: 9 IN 10 US FOOD DELIVERY SERVICE USERS SAY IT MAKES THEIR LIVES EASIER (Mintel)Source: Restaurant takeout and delivery are taking a bite dine-in traffic (Nation’s Restaurant News)

Wrapping up

Make sure you check back regularly. The food delivery market changes so rapidly that we’re committed to updating these stats to keep them fresh and current.

One thing is for sure – if you operate in foodservice and haven’t turned to delivery yet, 2020 might be the year you need to take the plunge.


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