Picture this: you’re studying for a big exam, writing an essay, and learning a new vocab set in Spanish. You want a break, and you deserve one too because you’ve been working hard. You want to be rewarded; you want FOOD. The dining hall on campus is closed, and Chipotle is right down the road but you don’t have a car. Even then, you don’t want to be away from your work for too long. So you take out your phone and open UberEats.

Welcome to the phenomenon of food delivery apps;  being able to order a meal from any of your favorite restaurants, right from your phone, and having it delivered to your location in about 45 minutes or less. This is a trend that has become extremely popular in today’s society, especially among millennials.

Millennials represent a unique consumer base; as this generation can be characterized as “time-starved,” they are killing the kitchen and eating more fast food because it is quicker. Food delivery apps have made this an even more convenient, less time-consuming process, so the use of these apps is a trend that is only predicted to increase. Forbes magazine recently reported thatUBS forecast [global] delivery sales could rise an annual average of more than 20% to $365 billion worldwide by 2030, from $35 billion [currently].” Contributing to the increase in sales, Forbes magazine also reported that on average, millennials are likely to order three times more than their parents, and that food delivery apps are now in the top 40 most downloaded apps in major markets.

The ability to order online directly from different restaurants through food delivery apps like UberEats, Postmates, Grubhub, etc  has been changing the way we consume food. The ways people are consuming now are more unhealthy and expensive than before food-delivery apps. An article from the website Foods for Better Health reports that fast food, and even retaurant food, has way more calories than a homecooked meal, and we are consuming more of it because it is being delivered straight to our doors. Moreover, delivering it to your door incurs a delivery fee upward of $8, which can really burn a hole in your wallet. The food-delivery phenomenon can especially be observed in college students. Many students are using their dining hall on campus less because of the convenience of food- delivery apps, which is resulting in a lot of students spending money on food and wasting the meal plan that is pre-paid for.

A huge concern regarding increased ordering of food is the negative health effects, such as how it can contribute to the “Freshman Fifteen”  in college students. With a lack of supervision at college, students can now order food like McDonald’s or Buffalo Wild Wings to their door, whenever they want, where there’s no parents to judge them or advise them against it. And due to its convenience, people are willing to stay home and order food to their door instead of actually going out and sitting down or picking it up. Fast food used to mean drive-thru, or being able to run into a restaurant real quick, grab a meal, and go. Today, we think of fast food as what we can most conveniently and quickly order. This now means pressing a few buttons on your phone and running from the couch to the door to grab your food. And this form of fast food is no longer limited to fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King, but we also have quick access to restaurants like Chickie’s and Pete’s, TGI Fridays, and even Larry’s Steaks.

While fast food delivery is convenient for consumers, the underlying reality is that it is starting to really hurt restaurants, especially those that rely on restaurant traffic.  For example, the CEO of Honeygrow argues that “the delivery service [is] beginning to replace some of the restaurant’s core business instead of complementing it.” New, start-up food chains that are trying to expand, such as Honeygrow, will only expand if they can get customers to keep coming in, but they are experiencing a large amount of takeout and delivery orders. The CEO of  Honeygrow is worried that the boom of delivery apps will overpower the foot traffic that is needed for their restaurant’s success. Therefore, the food-delivery phenomenon has become one of the biggest dilemmas in the twenty first century for many food chains that can’t keep up physical foot traffic in their restaurants.

Photo by Siobhan Naughton

The increasing popularity of food delivery apps has had an affect on the way people consume food, which in turn has started to affect restaurants and businesses. This phenomenon calls for some reevaluation from both restaurants and consumers. Restaurants and businesses need to think about the way they operate to continue to be successful. For example, many restaurants, such as Panera Bread, can now be ordered and delivered from their app, not a second-party source, so that the company profits. As for consumers, there’s no problem with treating yourself every once in a while, but before you next order food from an app like Grubhub or UberEats, be aware of the health effects and the toll it may have on your wallet.

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