Food delivery services struggle post-Covid


Examining the need for food delivery services post-Covid, following their initial boom

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By Finnious Wilson

Covid-19 led to a lack of consumerism and a range of businesses being affected, regardless of  their size, or the products they offered.

It became apparent that to survive or remain successful, businesses required an online presence, both to serve consumers by transporting their goods and to ensure their services were accessible online.

In exploring how businesses survived during Covid-19, food delivery service companies provide an excellent case study. An industry that grew exponentially during the pandemic capitalised on the necessity of food, despite the government mandate to remain at home.

Whilst many major stores like Asda and Morrisons already had an online presence allowing customers to shop from home, the true value of food delivery apps came to the fore at the start of the pandemic. This was because they were initially cheaper for independent stores to operate than developing their own applications while still providing what consumers wanted.

Qualitative research indicates that the public did not want to risk venturing from their homes to shops, seeing them as hubs for the virus. People drastically changed their behaviour to reduce exposure by avoiding physical contact in the stores, instead converting to the likes of Deliveroo, JustEat, and UberEats.

Surveys show 43 percent of consumers said that during the pandemic, the cleanliness and sanitisation of the items was their most important consideration when obtaining their groceries. When using food delivery services, the items are often freshly picked, are rarely on the shelves for very long and are provided by couriers who followed Covid-19 safety guidelines by  using sanitiser and wearing masks.

Such rules led to the popularity of these apps increasing dramatically, and many well-known chains capitalised on this. Deliveroo partnered with major retailers to deliver groceries to households. The popularity of food delivery apps only grew as a result of this, with  Google Searches immediately doubling in the pandemic and maintaining such levels throughout 2020 and into 2021.

Whilst this article concerns the survivability of food delivery services in the future, post-Covid-19, my opinion draws on previous trends in the industry. I stress that it has been, and will remain the case that the public uses food delivery service companies for their own personal safety, as an alternative to going to shops.

When examining consumer behaviours, the simplicity of ordering on these apps provides further reasoning as to why these companies will continue to thrive. All consumers admire convenience, and these applications provide it. A few clicks of buttons, and the consumer's shopping arrives without complication. With this in mind, I’m baffled as to why any person would refrain from using them.

That being said, German supermarket chain, Aldi, recently made the choice to abandon their partnership with Deliveroo, prioritising their own interests. Representatives of the store have stated the decision was made “to focus on their click-and-collect service”. Similarities between normal delivery and click-and-collect services exist, with the defining difference being the consumer’s need to enter the store. The move, therefore, can be viewed as an aim at profitability: consumers may come in and then decide to also buy other items whilst at the store. Employing couriers and paying charges to facilitate applications like Deliveroo also led to Aldi’s profits decreasing . They naturally sought to prevent this.

I question whether the choice to end their partnership with Deliveroo was sensible. Consumers are now opting for simplicity more than ever, and hesitating  to enter stores is something they are likely to continue doing. Therefore, I anticipate that consumers will simply shop from other stores that provide delivery via the typical applications. After all, no apparent shift has been made by other companies, Aldi’s competitors, to prevent couriers or external transporters from delivering to consumers.

All things considered, I don’t believe that food delivery service companies will erode from public use. Delivery services will continue to be critical to small chain takeaways. However, companies like Aldi, who abandoned delivery services should see a decrease in revenue going forward.