Delivery apps see increase in sales during coronavirus pandemic


AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

Wearing a mask against the spread of the new coronavirus, Eduardo Loyola boxes a pizza for delivery at the Zaza Pizzeria in Mexico City, Sunday, May 3, 2020.

Gregory Hatchett felt the need to continue supporting his favorite independent restaurant, El Mercadito, located in Logan Square. As he waited for the restaurant to bring his food out, he noticed an UberEATS sign on the door. Before the state mandate stay-at-home order went into effect, the restaurant was not on any food delivery app. El Mercadito offered dine-in eating before the mandate went into effect. They are now required to only offer delivery and pick up like all other dine in restaurants in Illinois as part of the order.  

“It’s pretty remarkable how quickly restaurants are getting on the delivery app bandwagon,” Hatchett said. 

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a drastic increase in business for food delivery apps as restaurants in Illinois were ordered by Gov. JB Pritzker to temporarily close their dining halls on March 16 until further notice. Restaurants are left to depend on take-out and delivery to continue operations with the drop-in sales.

Many restaurants in Chicago are joining food delivery apps in order to stay afloat during these difficult times. 

“Some restaurants don’t have delivery services, but they want new customers. Customers want to try new restaurants and the delivery apps help solve both those problems,” Hatchett added. 

There are some small restaurants, like Johnny’s Beef & Gyros, whose sales have significantly decreased since the stay-at-home order started. Although the restaurant allows customers to order via their website and app, Johnny’s is listed on Grubhub, Doordash and Postmates. 

“Pre-COVID, about 20 percent of orders were placed on third party delivery apps. Now during COVID-era it is around 75 percent,” says Johnny Anastopoulos, owner of Johnny’s Beef & Gyros located in Lincoln Park. “So, you can imagine how much of an increase in business the third-party companies are doing right now, and how much less that means for the restaurant staff and operators.”

According to Anastopoulos, delivery apps are good for business because they help market the restaurant by making it a top choice on the app for those who may not have ordered from them before. There are disadvantages of working with third party apps such as the commissions that restaurants pay for services, which can hurt their revenue in the long run. 

“If you have a favorite restaurant, show as much support as you can, because truthfully, many restaurants will not come out of this, and that is very unfortunate,” says Anastopoulos.

Derrick Adams sees ordering restaurant food as a luxury that he rarely indulges in. During the pandemic he does order out food when he is too tired to cook.

“I think ordering out is too expensive,” says Adams. “I think we should limit it to no more than twice a week. The only reason I indulge is to support local businesses.” 

Grubhub is deferring commission fees for independent restaurants that are current customers and those who have recently signed up to use their service. UberEATS has also waived delivery fees for independent restaurants in the United States and Canada. DoorDash has partnered with over 100,000 independent restaurants to sign up for no cost during the state mandated shutdown.

Jeremiah Barry, who is a delivery driver for UberEATS and DoorDash, has seen a high increase in deliveries since the restaurant shutdown. According to Berry, before the shutdown he would find himself waiting 30 minutes to an hour between deliveries. The increase in services has caused high wait times at certain establishments. 

“After the shutdown I don’t really have down time between deliveries. The downtime comes from long wait times to receive food from restaurants,” said Barry, who has been driving for UberEATS for about four years and DoorDash for a year. 

Delivery apps are taking safety precautions to help flatten the coronavirus curve. 

Delivery apps have implemented a no contact feature for customers to safely go on supporting their favorite restaurants by avoiding direct handoffs. If customers select the no contact option, the driver will put the order in a safe place chosen by the customer and then alert the customer via text when the driver has safely returned to their car. 

The no contact feature is designed to protect drivers as well. UberEats is providing drivers with sanitization products to clean their vehicles. Grubhub is providing protective gear to their drivers which include masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. 

At a time where fear and anxiety are at an all-time high, delivery apps are easing citizens’ anxiety of going out and helping with social distancing. Citizens like Hatchett order restaurant food for dinner via a delivery app, at least three days out the week. His goal of ordering restaurant food more is to limit the amount of human contact experienced while at a grocery store.

“I feel delivery apps are more convenient,” says Hatchett. “In a climate where delivery apps are replacing the need to be physically social, I think it’s the perfect way to follow the rules and guidelines put in place by the government.”