The coronavirus clampdown means the delivery biz could go bananas

Brick-and-mortar eateries are pivoting to delivery to make up for falling dining demand


March 15, 2020

If they haven’t already, your delivery orders are about to account for a lot more than just hangover food. 

Businesses and workers across the country are on Team #StayTheF*ckHome because of the coronavirus. Deliveries have graduated from the realm of the munchies — and, let’s be real, a luxury of our connected era — to a critical lifeline.

They’re evolving in other ways, too: No more face time with your driver.

The meatball has tolled for many restaurants

Late Sunday, Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, said he would sign an executive order limiting restaurants and bars to take-out and delivery service only.

The Empire State’s not the only place forcing the issue. The governors of Illinois, Ohio, and Washington ordered all bars and restaurants in their states to close, too.

Dining demand was already dropping: Data from the reservations site OpenTable showed the number of US diners was down by as much as 36% last week compared to 2019.

But if you thought restaurateurs would rest on their laurels, your guess is undercooked.

Call it the blue-plate pivot

Brick-and-mortar establishments are pivoting to delivery

One Colorado steakhouse is delivering prime cuts — cooked to order. The delivery person even waits while you check to make sure your medium rare is really medium rare.

An NYC chef once put a sushi counter in a hotel room (!). Now he’s doing chef-driven omakase, delivered.

Canlis, one of Seattle’s highest-end restaurants, is launching a drive-thru lunch service and family-style dinner delivery (with wine).

Several chefs and owners say they’ll haul the grub themselves, and leave the likes of the ’hub on the curb. Why? Razor-thin margins (and $$$$$ fees for consumers).

Their establishments might not normally embrace delivery, but as one dining entrepreneur told Bloomberg, “right now, beggars can’t be choosers as far as where the revenue comes from, so here we are.”

Grubhub must know about its money-grubbing rep…

…because on Friday, it said it would suspend collection of up to $100m in fees from independent restaurants rocked by falling demand.

The ’hub and its competitors rolled out options to make sure delivery goes smoothly — and cleanly. Contactless drops let drivers leave the good at diners’ doorsteps.

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