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Online Food Delivery – Can it lead to lifetime lockdown?

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

With apps like Swiggy and Zomato becoming popular, there has been a significant rise in the number of employment opportunities for delivery boys, chefs and app developers. Even companies dealing in food packaging have benefitted as a result.

Their presence may seem like a big boon for the economy, but the real picture is not as rosy as it looks on the surface.

It’s argued that food delivery apps don’t just operate in the field that they are supposed to. They’re probably in the data collection business too because they have everyone’s address and contact number. They also know people’s purchasing power and they can use this data to their advantage.

Without a doubt, such data will be worth its weight in gold in the near future. This also explains how in its initial years, Zomato and Swiggy operated aggressively despite incurring huge losses. They just focused on customer acquisition and wanted people to get rid of their dining out habit.

Additionally, the working conditions of delivery boys operating with these apps can be questioned. Even though thousands of people have voluntarily signed up with the apps as riders, they are subjected to high workload, limited training, dangerous conditions and low pay. Sometimes, these delivery boys race against the time and disregard traffic rules in order to meet their deadlines.

They may be getting more incentives for this but it’s at the cost of putting their own lives at risk. Long hours on the road also takes a toll on their bodies and leads to orthopaedical issues in the future.

As a result, job satisfaction isn’t great and there’s a high attrition rate.

Economic impacts of food delivery apps

The biggest impact suffered by these apps has been on restaurants which relied on in-house dining. With apps offering a range of offers, people have reduced the frequency with which they were eating out.

This has led to a decline in profits and some restaurants have had to shut shop. Initially, a restaurant may do very well after signing up with an app. They may have more orders and more customers directed to them through these apps. After some time though, when their restaurant is entirely dependent on these apps, they may have to shell out higher commissions which is unfeasible. They may also suffer a drop in customers when they decrease the subsidies they are offering.

In order to adapt, restaurants started reducing their dining space and tried to use this space for expanding their food delivery business. This trend has also given rise to cloud kitchens which have become very popular in India. Cloud kitchens or home-based kitchens have to pay a lower maintenance rate and no one has an idea about how hygienically they are making their food. This is dangerous for the consumer who is looking for healthy and fresh food, but instead he/she is being served something that can cause food poisoning.

Research conducted by social engagement platform LocalCircles revealed that 66% people were worried about the quality of the food they were ordering. Around 27,000 people across 218 Indian districts were considered for the research.

On top of these challenges, Zomato has launched its own grocery store HyperPure and encourages restaurant owners to buy ingredients from them. This is not good for small and medium sized business owners who were earlier supplying products to these restaurants. Swiggy has also launched its own cloud kitchen - The Bowl Company - which offers food at discounted rates. Obviously, these stores are marketed aggressively in their parent apps and that’s really discouraging news for their competition.

Social impact of these food delivery apps

These apps are also changing the relationship between consumers and their food. Traditionally, eating food was a community event which facilitated the exchange of ideas and meaningful conversation. Even shopping for groceries and preparing food would help bring people closer.

In a research conducted in Guangzhou, China, it was noticed that more people are preferring to eat alone in their homes and offices. Even if they were sharing a flat with someone else, they were making eating food a private affair.

Environmental impact of these food delivery apps

Since these apps have a minimum price requirement for using coupons, people tend to order more food than they actually need. This leads to food wastage especially when people are unable to store the food.

Another rising concern created by increased dependence on these apps is the amount of plastic waste that gets generated due to packaging. In addition to the solid waste pollution, this trend also contributes to water pollution and air pollution. With the coronavirus pandemic showing its ugly face in 2020, people also expressed concern about how the delivery boys were exposing themselves to the virus and risking their health.

To counter these effects, delivery apps across the world have tried to switch to electric vehicles and bicycles so as to reduce their carbon footprint.

Why you should dine out

Yes, we appreciate the convenience of food delivery but it shouldn’t completely obliterate good brick and mortar restaurants. After all, restaurants offer a rejuvenating dine in experience that can’t be replicated by cloud kitchens.

If you want restaurant owners to be able to survive, make it a point to dine out at least once a week. A restaurant is not just about its food. It’s also about its mood, its ambience, its staff and its experience.

At Urruda, we believe that the dependence on food delivery apps should reduce and their riders should be paid handsomely for putting their lives at risk. Measures should be taken to ensure their safety. In contrast, there should be reward points for dining out that can be redeemed on future visits.

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