On the surface, food delivery service looks like a perfect deal for both a customer and a vendor. You get your delicious food delivered to your doorstep, and the restaurant gets their money - a classic win-win scenario. Or is it?
When you start thinking about it, ordering take-out food isn’t ideal at all. And while I myself have lost count of how many times food delivery apps have saved me from starving, there are some obvious flaws in this system. Flaws that we all agree to accept without really thinking about them.
Don’t get me wrong. I love food delivery apps. I can’t imagine my life without them, but it doesn’t stop me from thinking that home food delivery is not all rainbows and butterflies. Nor for the client or the restaurant.
I’m not going to keep the suspense. Let’s dive straight in and talk about the obvious and not-so-apparent pros and cons of food delivery service.
Let me start with the most apparent benefit of ordering take-out. Convenience.
Remember when you had to phone your favorite pizza place to place an order? I don’t know about you, but I don’t miss those days. I much prefer the convenience of today’s food delivery apps like Postmates or GrubHub. Using one, you can order anything you want with just a few touches.
It’s fast, convenient, and 100% stress-free. Moreover, you have the time to think about what you want to order, and you can always change your mind while scrolling through the app.
Then, with just a few clicks or touches, you can fill your basket and place an order while simultaneously paying for it. I mean, the whole process can take just a few seconds if you know what you fancy eating before reaching for your phone.
The convenience doesn’t stop there. Once ordered, all you have to do is wait for your delicious meal to be delivered right to your doorstep. You don’t even have to pick it up personally, as most food delivery services have an option for the courier to leave the order at your door.
It’s the perfect solution whenever you don’t have time or strength to cook the meal yourself, let alone go to the restaurant.
And, on the bonus side, you can eat your favorite food while relaxing on your couch in front of a movie, show, or sports game.
Con: Food Quality Might Suffer
Now, while convenient, food delivery comes at a cost. And I’m not talking about money (yet). What I mean here is that the food might not arrive in the perfect state. At least compared to what you would’ve got at the restaurant.
That’s because people typically order food from places that aren’t nearby. Unfortunately, even when properly packed and sealed in a thermal bag, when hot food goes a relatively long distance, its quality will suffer.
The food can also be delivered cold if it’s not packed correctly. Of course, there are meal services that deliver meals you need to heat up yourself, but when ordering a burger or Asian noodles, receiving them cold isn’t the most pleasant experience.
Unluckily, there’s nothing you can do about it.
The food might also get a bit… shaken during the delivery, meaning that what you end up eating doesn’t resemble the nicely choreographed food photo you see on the menu list.
Pro: Large Variety of Take-Out Options
I remember when the only places you could order take-out food were pizza joints and Chinese restaurants. Well, these days are long gone. Thanks to the booming food delivery service industry, you can now order food from practically anywhere, be it a fast food bar or high-end restaurant.
That adds to the overall convenience, as you can comfortably try out different venues without having to travel around the city. It also allows you to order whatever you fancy eating instead of being forced to choose between three restaurants that offer deliveries.
In fact, the number of choices food delivery app users face can sometimes even be overwhelming. Often, I spend several minutes only scrolling through my phone to find the restaurant I might fancy, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who does that.
Con: Price Differences & Additional Costs
Another price to pay for convenience is, well, the actual price of home delivery. If you order food often, you must’ve noticed that restaurants charge additional service fees for home deliveries. You might also find that some menu items are cheaper in-house.
Some apps also have a feature called a “small order fee,” where restaurants are compensated for smaller orders. There are also the minimum order requirements you must first meet to place an order.
I don’t need to say that it can get really annoying. I can’t count how many times I wasn’t able to place an order because its value lacked extra 2 bucks. On the other hand, I get why restaurants set such limits.
Other than that, customers can also be charged packaging fees. They aren’t high, but once you start adding them up, you might find yourself paying an extra $1-$2 for having your burger delivered in a box.
And how could I forget about the delivery fee? These typically aren’t charged by restaurants but by delivery services, such as Uber Eats, DoorDash, or GrubHub. These will vary depending on the distance, courier availability, etc.
And let’s not forget about tipping your delivery courier. I mean, it’s not a must, but I always do that.
Having said that, once you start adding up all the costs and fees associated with food delivery services, you might start wondering whether having your tacos delivered is really worth it.
Pro: Deals and Discounts
One of my favorite take-out pros is that many food delivery apps offer cool discounts on various restaurants and meals. For one, it can significantly lower the costs of delivery, and it’s always nice to pay less than you’d normally have to.
Secondly, it always helps me make up my mind faster, which, considering the abundance of available take-out options, is not a bad thing.
The next pro of discounts and codes is that it allows you to discover new places at lower costs. That’s a win-win situation for the customer and vendor. One saves money. The other gets to advertise its services to a larger audience.
As for the type of deals, these typically include a discount on the full order, discounted menu items at specific restaurants, and free delivery. If you play your cards right, you can order your favorite food at much lower costs than you’d typically have to.
And who doesn’t like saving money?
Con: Waiting Times and Late Deliveries
When you’re hungry, you want your food delivered as fast as possible. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Long wait times are not unusual for food delivery services, and one of their most significant disadvantages.
Personally, I don’t mind waiting if I know the food is worth it. However, I get that when you’re opting for an emergency food delivery, time is of the essence. The good thing is all food apps provide users with info about estimated delivery times. The bad thing is that these estimations aren’t always accurate.
That brings me to the next point and another potential food delivery service disadvantage - late deliveries.
I’ve had many of my food orders delivered late. It’s a standard, especially during peak hours when tons of people place their orders. And I get why people often complain about that. After all, waiting for over an hour for a delivery that was supposed to take 20 minutes is not ideal, to say the least.
I’ve also had several unpleasant experiences where my food didn’t arrive at all because the delivery driver decided to run with it.
I’ve also heard about deliveries that ended with burglary, so it’s always recommended to be careful and don’t invite the courier into your house. These are isolated incidents, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Pro: Healthy Meal Options
Following a strict diet on your own can be challenging. Trust me. I know that better than anyone. Preparing your meals is a nightmare, especially since you need to shop carefully for the right products.
Here’s where healthy meal delivery service comes in, allowing you to select the correct meal plan. Such apps are perfect for people struggling with following diets.
There’s no need to count the calories of each product you buy. With a meal planning service, you will get your carefully selected meals delivered to your doorstep hassle-free and at affordable prices.
I’ve used such services multiple times, and they’re yet to disappoint. Their existence wouldn’t be possible without the boom in food delivery apps, though.
If you don’t have time to follow the strict dietary schedule yourself, a meal planning app can be a real lifesaver.
Con: Excessive Waste Production
While there are several eco-friendly meal delivery services out there, the vast majority of such services create a lot of excessive waste. I mean, think about it. How are most of your orders delivered? In plastic bags or other containers that aren’t necessarily ecological.
Personally, as a person who cares about such things, I always feel guilty when my ordered food is delivered covered in several layers of plastic. Therefore, when I can, I order from eco-aware meal services. That isn’t always possible, though.
Another eco-related issue with food delivery services is the carbon footprint of delivery vehicles. And while many delivery drivers use bikes or scooters, many of them opt for car delivery, which only adds to the ongoing air pollution.
That said, the next time you feel hungry for ramen, maybe cooking it at home is a better idea than having it delivered.
Also, don’t think I’m trying to discourage you from ordering food altogether. After all, I still do it myself, and I’m not a hypocrite. However, I use the delivery service far less frequently than I used to.
So, maybe instead of ordering food a few times a week, limit it to once every two weeks.
Pro: Suitable for People with Disabilities or Elders
Leaving a home might be more difficult for people with more serious disabilities. I have several friends and family members who can’t leave their homes too often for various reasons.
In such a case, food delivery is often the best option.
Whether it’s a meal plan or a standard food delivery service, it’s a much more affordable and hassle-free option for people who can’t simply take a quick walk to the nearest grocery store or restaurant.
Take-out food services can also prove useful when you have an elderly loved one who can’t always cook and shop for themselves. You can then simply order a grocery or food delivery, ensuring your elderly family member receives everything they need when you aren’t around.
Con: Contributes to Social Isolation
Becoming food delivery dependent might seem a convenient solution at first. However, it can do more harm than good in the long run, contributing to social isolation.
Of course, if you’re an introvert, this doesn’t sound too bad, but if you used to go out often but don’t do it anymore, you can quickly lose many of your connections. I don’t want to force you into socializing, but you know what I mean here, right?
As convenient as food delivery is, nothing beats going for a bite with your friends or significant other.
Besides social isolation, ordering take-out more frequently than usual can make you lazy. The same goes for ordering grocery deliveries.
Excessive food ordering is also the recipe for gaining weight, as you likely don’t have the time nor the urge to move around, let alone exercise. My advice here is to be careful with food delivery. Its convenience is both a blessing and a curse.
Pro: No Need to Dress Up
Okay it might look like a stretch, but hear me out. While we all love going to a restaurant from time to time, you can’t go out dressed in your track pants and a greasy t-shirt. No. Instead, you need to spend some time getting ready.
For me, it’s sometimes too much.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love going out. I find the whole experience really refreshing and exciting. However, there are days when you just don’t have the strength for such shenanigans. You’d rather stay at home and watch your favorite movie.
That’s the beauty of food delivery service and one of my favorite take-out pros. You can still enjoy a delicious meal from your favorite restaurant without having to dress up for the occasion.
Everything has its dark side, though. And that brings me to the next point.
Con: Lackluster Experience
As convenient and relaxing home food deliveries can be, they can’t substitute the actual restaurant experience. I mean, there’s something about going out for a meal that no other experience can match.
There’s also that personal touch of being served and the assurance that the food you receive is freshly prepared. There’s nothing like receiving a hot plate of your favorite food straight from the chef’s hands (figuratively speaking, of course).
Take-out food just doesn't have that feeling. It’s a rather lackluster experience compared to eating in a restaurant. It’s not the same, even if you order from a high-end venue.
Also, if you think restaurants prefer their clients to order food online, think again. What creates an atmosphere at a restaurant? The food, the staff, and the decor. Anything missing? People.
It’s the people who dine inside that allow the restaurant to find its identity.
Trust me when I say that even with multiple delivery orders, restaurant owners would much prefer to have more people dining in.
Pro: Restaurants Can Win New Customers
Throughout this article, I’ve mostly discussed the pros and cons of food delivery service from the customers’ perspective. Now I’d like to spare a moment and talk about the take-out upsides and downsides from the restaurants’ point of view.
Let’s start with the most important, in my opinion, pro of offering delivery services. Namely, the chance to reach more customers.
Given how competitive the gastronomy industry is, many small restaurants find it difficult to attract customers. Offering their services through a food delivery service grants them a chance to show off their menu and build brand awareness.
The rule here is simple. A venue starts offering food delivery via an app, preferably offering some discounts or free delivery on all orders. A hungry customer finds the deal, orders the food, and, if they like it, discovers a new place to visit.
That hungry customer can be anybody. I myself have found several amazing spots in my hometown through food delivery.
Con: Challenging to Manage for Smaller Restaurants
On the other hand, the chance to advertise a restaurant through food delivery services comes at a price, both literally and figuratively.
First of all, offering food delivery through an app like Uber Eats or DoorDash isn’t free. Food delivery fees charge commissions on orders. These can be pretty hefty, reaching up to 30%. Given how tight margins are in the food industry, such fees can ruin one’s business if they aren’t careful.
These commissions are also the reason why restaurants tend to charge additional fees on online orders. It’s a good thing to keep in mind the next time you complain about higher prices for food delivery.
The second cost is that small restaurants might not have the resources to deal with both online and in-house orders. That can severely affect the quality of food and work efficiency as restaurants try to meet the demand they can’t possibly supply.
That is one of the reasons why much smaller restaurants set limits on an order area, which can limit their business opportunities.
That said, if you have a favorite place you don’t want to go out of business, maybe a better idea is to visit it, instead of having your food delivered.
So, to order food online, or not to order? That is the question.
I say, go for it. I mean, while there are cons to food delivery services, I think the advantages beat them easily. And quite frankly, ordering food online is sometimes the best option you have, especially if you often can’t find the time to eat properly, let alone cook.
I myself love ordering home food delivery from time to time. I try to limit it to once every two weeks, although that doesn’t apply to meal plans or prepared meal delivery services I sometimes use when I need to follow a specific diet.
All in all, food delivery services are here to stay. And while they do come with some significant cons, such as lower food quality, wait times, or additional fees, given the convenience and variety of meal options, they often are the best choice in certain situations.
They also offer new business opportunities for small restaurants that want to build brand awareness, even if food delivery services charge pretty hefty commissions.
And that’s a wrap on my article. Remember that it’s 100% my take and all pros and cons I wrote are entirely subjective.
Until next time!