In an era when we can watch, read or wear whatever we want at the click of a button, food was always going to be next. MARIAM DIGGES logs in to the burgeoning business of online meal delivery services
Not too long ago, the biggest question diners faced when dialling for home delivery was thick or thin crust. Today, thanks to an influx of local and global delivery juggernauts, sous vide salmon or a tub of Messina gelato can be delivered to your front door in under 10 minutes.
It’s fine dining in your pyjamas, Sunday’s breakfast in bed, or a glutenfree doughnut at your office desk as the clock strikes 3pm-itis. Thanks to the whims of the hungry and time-poor, this new, multi-billion-dollar industry is set to flip the food and beverage space on its head.
It’s “the battle for Thursday night,” says Martin Kneebone, managing director of Melbourne food market research and analysis firm, Freshlogic. We’re likely to prepare our own meals from Monday to Wednesday but burn out by Thursday. And the weekends are when we “play Masterchef ”.
According to Kneebone, there’s a wish to curb food waste at home, as well as an emerging group of first-time homeowners with their domestic training wheels on to whom home delivery is an answer to chore overload.
This burgeoning market is growing at a rapid rate. In 2016, Menulog had 13.8 million orders, a 42 per cent increase from 2015.
“We have 8.4 million households in Australia. If you add up the number of meals they might order – even if only 20 per cent of them order one – that’s still a lot of meals,” says Kneebone.
It’s a boom that isn’t slowing down. And as the number of deliveries snowballs, Kneebone predicts this new breed of meals on wheels is going to take some share off food retail.
A glance abroad reveals all kinds of retailers competing for a slice of the pie. Online giant Amazon will soon begin conveying meal kits to homes in the US, while The New York Times plans to deliver ingredients for its online recipes.
Back in Australia, hungover people everywhere celebrated last month when Mcdonald’s announced Mcdelivery, a collaboration with Ubereats. It’s available from more than 80 restaurants around the country, with 15 specifically in Sydney.
But just because it’s fast meal delivery doesn’t mean it’s fast food. Fine diners are also getting on the bandwagon.
Chef Neil Perry’s Rockpool Dining Group restaurants offer whittled down menus for 10, including premium offerings Sake and Spice Temple, via Deliveroo and Ubereats. It’s now weighing up a similar menu for the jewel, Rockpool Bar & Grill. CEO Thomas Pash says the decision to deliver came after customer requests for the service.
“We’re regularly testing to ensure the end result is a good one,” he says. “If we thought it was diminishing quality, we’d stop immediately.”
It’s not just diners who stand to win as home delivery fleets grow; restaurants are broadening their reach and exposure by leveraging off the platforms’ marketing tools and databases. And apps are helping food trends to spread faster.
“Ubereats has enabled restaurants to launch new ideas very quickly,” says Caspar Nixon, consumer and product communications lead at Ubereats. He cites Mahalo Poké in Melbourne, which used the platform to test the waters for its offering.
“They didn’t have a bricks and mortar restaurant – they launched a virtual store on the Ubereats platform and were so successful that they’ve now opened up an actual restaurant.”
British company Deliveroo is going a step further by rolling out a series of delivery-only kitchens, named Editions, in Sydney and Melbourne later this year. The premises will house up to seven rotating restaurants and service the city’s outskirts, where demand is growing quickly as housing prices drive people further out of the CBD. There are currently 20 Editions in the UK, while Dubai and Singapore have also trialled the delivery hubs.
Curated service Endulj is also using the purpose-built kitchen model, turning out signature dishes from the likes of Movida, Lee Ho Fook and Saigon Sally from two Melbourne locations, and outsourcing to Ubereats for delivery.
As Australia’s largest online food delivery service of the past decade, Menulog connects about 2.9 million customers with more than 8600 local restaurants. Two years ago, the UK’S Just Eat Group bought the business, and it has already launched trial robot deliveries.
Vegetarian food is the biggest growth area for Menulog, increasing 1000 per cent year on year, says managing director Alistair Venn. Riding this wave is the smaller operator Soulara, a house-prepared vegan food delivery service in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra.
But, according to Foodora’s CMO Charlotte Rijkenberg, “Aussies really love their burgers,” with high-end buns in big demand.
The Sugar Deli caters to sweet cravings, offering same-day delivery for nostalgic treats like cola-flavoured cupcakes and iced finger buns. “It was born from my pregnancy-induced sugar cravings,” says owner Renee Durous.
Whatever you have a hankering for, rest assured, there’s a food delivery platform for you.