Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic caused shutdowns around the world, people have been depending more on food delivery services in lieu of going out to dinner.
The change in dining habits sees customers supporting local restaurants and at the same time practicing safe health.
There’s also been a jump in an off-shoot of take-out — food delivery services.
The turnaround has boosted revenues for the big three delivery services, GrubHub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats.
GrubHub reported a third- quarter 53% revenue increase from the same time last year.
Uber Eats also saw significant increases in revenue for its delivery service, to 135% over one year.
Food delivery services are convenient because they bring restaurant food to you, but getting that meal to your door involved added costs such as tip and a delivery fee.
But what’s its worth to the average consumer?
Customer Meghan Zach of Enfield said she and her wife, Berta, prefer DoorDash for the convenience, but that it has its limitations.
“We have used DoorDash more often but still pretty rarely. We discovered the service before the pandemic started. I like that it’s convenient, offers a larger delivery area than restaurants themselves, and in some cases, offers delivery for restaurants that otherwise wouldn’t.
“The contactless delivery has been super helpful during the pandemic and the drivers I’ve had are quick, courteous, and professional.”
In traditional delivery services, a customer places an order by phone or through the restaurant’s website, and the business dispatches one of its employees to deliver the food.
Delivery services such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, and GrubHub use their own drivers to pick up the food from the restaurant and deliver it for an additional cost, which is partly based on distance traveled.
The cost varies from company to company.
For example six boneless chicken wings and a large Pete’s A Pie costs $42.95, including a 20% tip, when ordered directly from Randy’s Wooster Street Pizza in Manchester, using their own delivery people.
If ordered from DoorDash, it would cost $47.88 with a $6 tip, which you can adjust on the website. If ordered from GrubHub it would cost $44.70 with a non-adjustable tip of $7.45 built in.
When drivers are unavailable, you’re out of luck. Uber Eats, for example, didn’t have a driver to bring an order of wings and pizza to the Journal Inquirer on a recent Tuesday, so it wasn’t included on the app that shows options for delivery services.
There can be additional hiccups, too.
Zach said,“I have noticed app glitches where the entire restaurant menu isn’t available, so I prefer to order directly from the restaurant when I can.”
“I have used Grubhub for both business and personal use. They seem to have a more limited selection of restaurants I’d consider ordering from (in my opinion). The few orders I placed have been canceled or delayed every time, so I only use them if someone sends me a gift card.”
Keenan Montgomery, bar manager of Wood-n-Tap in Vernon, says if issues arise, the eatery does it’s best to resolve them.
Montgomery said if the issue is food based, the restaurant handles it. If there’s a problem with the order itself, “We try to figure out if it was put in correctly. There is a training period individuals have to go through to familiarize themselves with the platform. Some are easier than others.”
Each service has its own online format detailing where the charges come from — sales tax, tip and delivery, and sometimes a service fee.
Take the order from Wooster Street Pizza: Ordering directly from the restaurant costs 50 cents less, with no delivery fee. The DoorDash bill combines the sales tax and a 13% service fee totaling $7.18, while Grub Hub just has a $2.55 sales tax included.
One of the advantages of these services is that they deliver from places that don’t have their own drivers.
While this is helpful for people who want contactless service, expect to pay a little more for the convenience.
Zach said, “With the additional fees and delivery charges, it doesn’t seem worth it. I don’t plan to continue using GrubHub unless I require delivery and can’t find the restaurant elsewhere.”
Another point to consider is the promptness of the delivery.
The services’ websites give an estimated delivery time that will occasionally be adjusted to longer wait times for delivery running well over an hour.
The wait time for the Wood-n-Tap order in Vernon, made at noon on a recent Tuesday — the height of lunch time — was 44 to 54 minutes for DoorDash, 40 to 50 minutes for GrubHub, and 25 to 35 minutes for Uber Eats to deliver the meal to the Journal Inquirer, less than 3 miles away.
Distance can be a two-edged sword for restaurants, though, and can be a boon or be a bust.
Montgomery says the eatery, which doesn’t have its own drivers, has had a positive experience with food delivery services.
“They’re helping keep business going. It’s definitely helping a lot of local businesses,” he said.
Distance-wise, securing a food delivery service doesn’t work for Basil’s Restaurant in the Stafford Springs section of Stafford.
Alex Kooulisis, Basil’s owner, said, “It’s just outside our market right now. None of them are offering. I think the closest town is Tolland that uses them.
“Stafford Springs is … 66 square miles. By the time you deliver from one side of town to another, it’s junk. I know if someone comes into the restaurant and picks it up here, they’re taking it right home. It’s a whole different menu price.”
There is a way to save money. Delivery services occasionally offer discounts through promo codes and specials with certain establishments. These change frequently and should be monitored for the best, current deal.
The use of delivery services is entirely dependent on the need of the person looking to order food, but if you want to save money, use the delivery offered by the restaurant, if they already have one, and be sure to compare prices and see what discounts delivery services are offering.