OAKLAND, Calif. – Last fall, as the weather cooled and coronavirus cases began to rise, May Seto, owner of Grand Lake Kitchen in Oakland, refurbished a used pizza oven and started it up. takeout and delivery pizza business from a side kitchen where she cooks for catering and private events.
Now, one of two Grand Lake locations serves as a transportation hub for restaurant pizza and cafe tickets. Ms. Seto also plans to rebuild the entrance at another of her sites to have more space for food delivery drivers.
“We could rearrange the facade of the restaurant a bit and remember the delivery as if it were here to stay, because it is,” she said.
Delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats have become a lifeline for businesses during the pandemic. Restaurants have learned to handle the logistics — rearranging kitchens and stocking takeout boxes in abandoned dining rooms — and reluctantly accept delivery fees that reduce their already slim profit margins. surname.
Some of those changes are starting to look like they could become permanent, as consumers aren’t giving up their budding hobby of having food delivered to their door. In a recent survey by JD Power, 71% of consumers said they would continue to order delivery more or more than they have during the pandemic.
In markets that reopened earlier than most, like Florida and Texas, as well as Australia, DoorDash’s order volume is down about 20% from the peak of the pandemic, the company said. . Uber Eats also had a slump as communities reopened, but its revenue was still up 230 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year — a welcome respite from the calling business. Uber’s downhill car.
Something similar is happening in places like San Francisco. As orders eased this spring, Laurie Thomas, co-owner of two restaurants in the city, said deliveries have dropped. But when San Francisco began to fully reopen in June, Ms. Thomas’s DoorDash orders rebounded and were only slightly lower than they were before the pandemic.
“Delivery has become an important part of life during the pandemic,” said Ben Bleiman, leader of the San Francisco Bar Owners Alliance. “The question is how much of it will stay and how many will leave.”
There is little doubt that the pandemic has benefited online delivery services. In the first quarter of the year, DoorDash processed 329 million orders, a quarterly record for the company and a 219% year-over-year increase, it said. DoorDash estimates that it will process $9.4 billion to $9.9 billion in orders in the second quarter of the year, after processing $9.9 billion in the first quarter.
If delivery is here to stay, restaurant groups are having to find a financial workaround. Ms. Thomas leads the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, an industry group that has lobbied to limit the fees that delivery companies charge, while allowing them to charge more for marketing services. Early in the pandemic, many cities placed emergency limits on how much delivery companies could charge restaurants. But many orders have expired. If fees return to pre-pandemic levels, deliveries will become unaffordable, business owners said.
Last week, San Francisco’s board of supervisors voted unanimously for a permanent 15% cap on delivery fees. Similar measures are being considered in Chicago and other cities.
“We can’t have a system where people are charged up to 30 per cent of their sales to survive,” said Ahsha Safai, a council member that patronizes the law.
DoorDash and Uber Eats have responded to the emergency limit by improving the way restaurants pay for their service and charge local fees. In April, DoorDash offered restaurants the option to pay a 15% fee for basic services and the option to pay higher fees for marketing and other services. In some cities, like Chicago, DoorDash charges customers a $1.50 “Chicago fee”. In Jersey City, NJ, which temporarily capped fees at 10 percent, Uber Eats added a $3 “temporary local fee.”
Christopher Payne, president of DoorDash, said there are other ways lawmakers can support restaurants, such as allowing outdoor dining and alcohol delivery to continue.
“Most restaurants want to see customers where they want to be,” Mr. Payne said. “The reality is that customers want both occasions. They want to go to restaurants and have the great experience they miss, but they also want to get what they want at home.”
Even high-end restaurants that have turned to takeout as a lifeline during the pandemic say they can keep it as a complement to fine dining.
Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Alinea, a Chicago restaurant that offers fine dining experiences priced between $210 and $415 per person.
During the pandemic, Alinea began offering takeout options for $35 per person, and Kokonas, who is also the chief executive officer of restaurant software company Tock, said Alinea will expand the offerings. its take-out service.
Genie Kwon and Tim Flores opened their Filipino bakery and cafe, Kasama, in Chicago last July. Delivery was not in their original vision for the restaurant, but the pandemic changed their plans. They piled up their bars with takeout boxes, and their dining rooms filled with delivery people and customers taking orders.
Ms. Kwon said she has gotten into the habit of leaving new items on the menu an hour before trying them out so she can make sure they’re still delicious after they’re delivered. As coronavirus cases spike in the winter, she and Mr. Flores debated adding a dedicated window for food delivery, as a social distancing measure. During storms, Ms. Kwon said, there aren’t often enough couriers to deliver orders, so she and Flores end up delivering the goods themselves.
Ms Kwon said she hopes to reduce Kasama’s reliance on deliveries, which she estimates have made up 25% of her business during the pandemic, to be phased out over the next month or longer to make room for in-person dining.
“At this point, we don’t have the space or the manpower to continue with the volume of deliveries that we are doing,” she said. “We’ll probably keep the day open and then stop shipping for dinner.”
To ensure customers stick with them, DoorDash and Uber Eats have rapidly expanded their delivery offerings. Along with hot meals, companies are now delivering groceries, pet supplies, wine and dry goods, and encouraging customers to add new items to their vehicles when they order dinner.
“A lot of Uber Eats users used to primarily use the app to order food,” said Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, senior vice president of delivery at Uber.
“One of the consistent trends is that, as they get more utility, consumer expectations go up, not down,” said Mr. Payne of DoorDash.
He added, “The arc of wanting more convenience, more things delivered to you faster, seems to only go in one direction.”