At the beginning of this century, when Seamless was launched, mostly as a tool for offices to place large orders from restaurants and catering companies, it did not register as a threat. Nor did Just Eat in Denmark (2001) or Grubhub (2004) or a host of others, all of whom began to swallow each other in a series of mergers and acquisitions that read as a technical version of biblical birth announcements: “And Just Eat acquired Hungryhouse from Delivery Hero, and Seamless merged with Grubhub, and Greylock Partners and Redpoint Ventures invested in Just Eat, which gave birth to SkipTheDishes. “
As with humans, the family of companies grew wider and more diverse. Here is a partial list of major competitors and also driven companies in this field: Talabat, Snapfinger, Hungryhouse, Menulog, Eat24Hours, Ele.me, EatStreet, Eat Club, Munchery, Postmates, OrderAhead, DoorDash, ChowNow, Caviar, Foodpanda, Menu Group, SkipTheDishes, SpoonRocket, Deliveroo, Gopuff, Hello Curry, Foodora, Dunzo, Swiggy, Uber Eats, Wolt, TinyOwl, InnerChef, Maple, Tapingo, Rappi, Spring, Chowbus and Glovo. As they spread and merged, these companies collected more detailed, accurate customer data, and the information gathered into a tool that could predict and meet customer requirements far more efficiently than even the most experienced restaurateur.
The arrival of the iPhone in 2007, followed by the recession of 2008 and a whole generation of young engineers mobilized to create apps in a quick jerk to become the next Facebook, was an indefensible attack on restaurants. A host with a reservation book and a landline phone was under-equipped to compete with order-delivery technology that was suddenly in every diner’s pocket, bringing data into Silicon Valley app companies. Within a few years, these companies knew more about a restaurant’s customers – what we wanted, when we wanted it, how much we were willing to pay – than a small business could ever.
In 2016, a number of these companies made news by stopping their hitherto unhindered growth. Before shutting down, Bento admitted there was more money to be made on catering than on-demand delivery, SpoonRocket sold its technology to Brazilian food chain iFood, and Square tried to sell Caviar to Uber or Grubhub.
As the news came out that third-party delivery was unprofitable, despite much-announced sales, the conversation shifted. The problem was not that the emperor had no clothes, that these companies – valued in billions, with more investment money flowing in every day – were busy with restaurants and investors. It was that, of course, it was not profitable to supply food. Not with human work. However, when restaurant meals could arrive at our door via drones, robots and self-driving cars, that was when the sector would go from red to black. “If we do not get [autonomous car] The software thing is nailed down, we are not going to be much longer, ”said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick USA today in 2016.
All of these companies prefer to be known as technology companies as opposed to taxi or restaurant companies. It is true. They do not provide food. Many of them go out of their physical schlepping to other agencies, such as Relay, Homer Logistics (acquired by Waitr) and Habitat Logistics. Bicycle and car couriers are never employees, but “independent contractors” who give the company the maximum exemptions from the labor and employment laws regarding planning, overtime, sickness benefits and wages.
Committed to the legal fiction that their product is something other than delivery and that couriers are not employees, these companies go around the details of what service they are actually providing, reminding you that you are getting food brought to you because of them in some way difficult to quantify way. “Grubhub helps you find and order food wherever you are.” “Uber Eats is the easy way to get the food you love delivered.” “Whatever you want, we’ll get it. Order delivery for yourself or with friends, and watch in real time while your postmate brings you all the things you love.” It is an impressive feat of copywriting that suggests that they deliver food without stating it and therefore avoid the responsibility of identifying themselves as delivery companies.