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

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - On Sunday - Is there an app for that? Find out who de­liv­ers what and where at de­li­

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.

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