Companies like DoorDash and UberEats helped many restaurants stay in business during lockdowns, allowing diners to stay in and still order out. But that convenience came at a price: Delivery companies can charge commission fees of 30% or more per order, hurting restaurants’ already meager profits.
Some restaurants, fed up with the fees, have since started their own delivery or dropped off the platforms altogether. Delivery companies are trying to keep them in the fold with lower-priced services and relief funds. But they’re not making money either.
“The relationship was bad, and it didn’t get better with the pandemic,” said Karan Girotra, a professor at Cornell University’s Johnson College of Business.
Girotra said delivery can be profitable in dense neighborhoods, where multiple orders can be delivered quickly and cheaply. But in sprawling suburbs, the cost of shuttling food gets too high.
“The economics don’t work out, so the delivery companies have to squeeze someone,” he said. “They have to squeeze the restaurants, the customers or the people working on these platforms.”
Figuring out how to make delivery profitable could be crucial in the coming years. Delivery was already growing before the pandemic, but it surged worldwide during lockdowns. Online orders for home delivery more than doubled in the U.S., Russia and Canada last year, and jumped around 30% in France, Germany and Spain, according to NPD Group, a market research company.
In a recent survey, the National Restaurant Association found that 60% of U.S. adults — and 71% of millennials — said they’re more likely to get delivery now than they were before the pandemic. But it’s unclear how many people will stick to delivery once the pandemic is over and they can dine in again.
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