Coming soon: a take-away of your choice dropped into your house by drone – maybe.
However, what is in no doubt is that the whole business of high speed food delivery is growing exponentially and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
If you have a smart phone, you have hundreds of menus and choices in your pocket. Within half an hour, they can be on your table, supplied by a company that has no chefs, no kitchen and no culinary expertise – but with an extraordinary grasp on how to satisfy the active ingredient so much in demand these days – instant gratification.
My father used to expect my mother to have the evening meal ready on the table by the time he got home from work at 6pm. These days, people laugh at this quaint, old-fashioned notion. Both working hard with long hours, millennial couples are as likely to return to those days as pick up a hard-backed encyclopaedia.
Even back then, though, you could get a ‘take-away’ (of sorts) from the local Chinese restaurant, which were first making an appearance at about the same time. So, make sure you have a menu at home, look through it, phone up, make sure you have some cash, get the car out of the garage, drive in the rain for 5 minutes, pick it up, take it home and eat it, mainly cold. What, were we crazy or something?
Now Google, uberEats, Amazon Prime Now, Postmates, Grub Hub and Yelp are there to do the hard work of getting the food from the kitchen to your table. Along the way, by connecting you to the restaurant of your choice (and taking a cut), as well as picking up food, they are also picking up data. Lots of data. Your preferences, locations, timetables, routines and so on.
Other restaurant brands, seeing that this trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, have opened special ‘delivery only’ locations (where you can’t eat, and all the customers are technology company employees or taxi drivers) or actually cooking your food in a van fitted with an oven as it speeds along on its way to sate your appetite. Let’s hope you don’t live anywhere near the M25, or your pizza may well be on the crispy side!
Meanwhile, over in Trumpland, in the rare and exceptional case that might involve you cooking something yourself, Amazon is cutting out the supermarkets by bring fresh food direct from farmer to consumer. And they’re not alone in this kind of disruptive behaviour.
Note that the people who started these delivery companies will never go hungry. Online takeaway giant Just Eat has swallowed whole its largest UK rival Hungry House and Canada’s Skip the Dishes in two deals, which together are worth up to £300m. This could grow by a further £40m before the transaction completes depending on future sales. This is probably a wise move as the Canadians reported sales growth of 186% YOY.
So what does it all mean for the restaurant sector? At the top end, probably not much – yet. But expect to see fewer takeaways that you can actually sit down in for an everyday meal. Why pay for waiting staff and the room for tables and chairs when you don’t need to?
Anyway, I’ve got to go now, as someone has just posted a Chapatti through my letter box.