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Article: Annika Wickham
Annika Wickham, a graduate of Watkins Glen High School, is a student at SUNY Oswego. She is home now thanks to the pandemic but taking a news writing and reporting class this semester "where we learn and practice writing different types of news articles. My professor gives the option to submit full-length articles we write to local newspapers if he deems them well written enough. I recently wrote a story about the trends in food delivery services in the past decade and during quarantine, and it was suggested that I submit it for possible publication." And here it is.
By Annika Wickham
SCHUYLER COUNTY, April 22, 2020 -- As technology is used more in everyday life, the use of food delivery services around the world has spiked as more people choose to order their meals from their phones.
The popularity of using delivery services has spiked from 14% worldwide in January 2004 to 36% in January 2020, according to Google Trends, with 0% being not popular to 100% being extremely popular.
Not surprisingly, this has increased over the past few months due to the rising number of Coronavirus cases worldwide. From January to March 2020, the popularity of delivery services has increased by 24 points, from 36% to 70%.
This is in part from smaller and localized restaurants starting to do delivery for the first time in order to keep up their sales.
“March 16 is when we started delivery,” said Bob Landon, owner of Landon’s Pub and Pizza in Watkins Glen. “Due to quarantine, it [has] maintained a cash flow but profit is way down.”
Landon also said that since he started delivery, there has been a steady increase in specifically delivery orders, but he did not offer it before the pandemic arrived and social distancing was implemented.
Landon and most business owners in Watkins Glen and the surrounding towns rely on their employees to deliver for them. Popular food delivering apps such as GrubHub or UberEATS do not as a general rule operate in small towns or villages. So even as these online ordering services gain popularity, they are not helping restaurants in rural areas.
Rebekah Carroll, executive director of the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, said she has reached out to Instacart, a grocery delivery service, multiple times since social distancing started but has gotten no reply.
“Our chamber is pushing Main Street Drivers,” she said. “They are providing a much-needed service to this community.”
Main Street Drivers is a designated driver service that operates around Watkins Glen and is mostly used for wine tours. Having any driving service in a small town is helpful during a pandemic.
Bill Tague, who owns Jerlando’s Ristorante and Pizza Company in Watkins Glen, said he would love to use a third-party delivery service instead of his own drivers.
“We have been offering delivery service for the last five years,” he said. “Not only does the cost associated with such a service (delivery) eat into our profits, our product can oftentimes be jeopardized with the unforeseen.
“Last Friday,” Tague continued, “a delivery driver got a flat tire with three deliveries in his car. Rural delivery can be extremely challenging.”
Tague started offering delivery in order to gain an edge over his competition. With Jerlando’s being one of three pizza shops just in Watkins Glen, he needed to stand out.
“At that time nobody offered delivery," he said. "With the rumors ... of (more) pizza places opening, I wanted to stay ahead of the avalanche.”
Restaurant owners like Tague who started offering delivery have seen an increase in profits, especially during the pandemic.
“Delivery is up approximately 40%" since the Coronavirus arrived, he said.
Many of the most popular food delivery applications, UberEATS, Postmates, and DoorDash, were founded after 2010. That year, there was only an average of an 18% interest worldwide for delivery services; within three years, there was a 4% increase to 22% worldwide.
As different companies were founded, there were more options for people to choose from with a greater distance to be delivered to.
In the U.S., GrubHub has the largest overall market base, according to Vox.com. DoorDash and UberEATS are at a close second and third. With a presence mostly in major cities, these delivery services each take a significant share of the more than $100 billion industry that is food delivery.
Whether in small towns or large cities, the trends of food delivery are predicted to continue to rise as people choose to eat in rather than go out.
Photo: Annika Wickham