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UberEATS delivery person on a bicycle.

Retail food delivery is a courier service in which a restaurant, store, or independent food delivery company delivers food to a customer. An order is typically made either through a restaurant or grocer's website or phone, or through a food ordering company, like, GrubHub, or Postmates. The delivered items can include entrees, sides, drinks, desserts, or grocery items and are typically delivered in boxes or bags. The delivery person will normally drive a car, but in bigger cities where homes and restaurants are closer together, they may use bikes or motorized scooters.

Customers can, depending on the delivery company, choose to pay online or in person, with cash or card. A flat rate delivery fee is often charged with what the customer has bought. Tips are often customary for food delivery service.

Other aspects of food delivery include catering and wholesale food service deliveries to restaurants, cafeterias, health care facilities, and caterers by foodservice distributors.


The first food delivery service was for naengmyeon (cold noodle) in Korea, recorded in 1768. Hyojonggaeng(hangover soup) was also delivered for the yangban in the 1800s. Advertisement for food delivery and catering also appeared in the newspaper in 1906.[1][2][1]

Meal delivery[edit]

A man and a Starship Technologies delivery robot waiting at a pedestrian crossing in Redwood City, California

Meal delivery orders are typically on demand, and intended to be eaten right away, and include hot, already-prepared food. Pizza delivery is the largest meal delivery industry at the moment.[3][not in citation given] Ordering for delivery usually involves contacting a local restaurant or chain by telephone or online. Online ordering is available in many countries, were some stores offer online menus and ordering. Since 1995, companies such as have their own interfaces where customers order food from nearby restaurants that have partnered with the service. Meal delivery requires special technology and care, since the food items are already cooked and prepared, and can be easily damaged if dropped, tilted, or left out for long periods of time. Hotbags are often used to keep food warm. They are thermal bags, typically made of vinyl, nylon, or Cordura, that passively retain heat.[4]

In Mumbai, dabbawalas deliver hundreds of thousands of lunches to paying subscribers every workday through a system of rail and bicycle links. The lunches are sent in tiffin carriers, and are prepared in the late morning by either a restaurant or family member (typically a wife for a working husband, since many families still follow traditional asymmetrical gender roles). The tiffins are then returned either in the afternoon or the next day by the same system. On the other hand, Foodpeon from Dhaka delivers corporate lunches using one-time food graded plastic container. It looks smart and it's hygienic. Customers don't have to return the containers, rather they dispose them.

In the Philippines, most commonly delivered meals are from fastfood chains like Jollibee, Mcdonalds, Pizza Hut, Shakey's, KFC, etc. Orders are being done through their delivery websites, mobile apps, or by phone. Time of delivery usually takes around 30 to 45 minutes.

Meal delivery services offer prepared meals by subscription.

Delivery of ingredients[edit]

Community-supported agriculture schemes work on a subscription box model, where a box of vegetables, dairy product, fish, or meat is delivered periodically from a local vendor.

Various meal kit delivery subscription services have started in Europe and North America since 2007. These typically have pre-measured ingredients designed for accompanying recipes.

Grocery delivery[edit]

InstaShop, an app-based grocery delivery service.

Grocery delivery companies will deliver groceries, pre-prep or pre-made meals, and more to customers. The companies work with brick and mortar stores[5] or their own line of grocery items.[6] These orders are typically larger and more expensive than normal meal deliveries, and are often not meant to be eaten right away, rather they are to replace items someone has run out of, like flour or milk. They are almost always done online, and typically take at least one day to deliver, though some companies offer same-day delivery. Many delivery services are required to offer delivery within a couple hours because frozen and fresh foods have to be delivered before they spoil.

Grocery delivery differs greatly from meal delivery in the sense that its is usually sent as a parcel through common mailing services like USPS or FedEx, if it's only non-perishables. Since non-perishable items are normally packaged before arriving at grocery stores, they can easily be repackaged and delivered to customers without any special care. Sometimes, dry ice is added to keep perishable items fresh. Fresh and frozen foods complicate delivery which is done, usually by store/provider employees or third party services such as Instacart.

The grocery delivery business has taken off, with hundreds of niche delivery companies springing up offering a variety of different services from weekly grocery restock to pre-planned, pre-measured family meals to make cooking easier.[7] Online retailer giants have hopped on board too., for example, offers AmazonFresh delivery service. Amazon purchased Whole Foods Market in 2017,[8] and by 2018 Amazon had added Whole Foods items to its Prime Now service, for 2-hour delivery in certain markets.

Associated fees[edit]

A farmer in his field buys his breakfast from a motorcycle-based traveling vendor. Zhangpu County, Fujian

In addition to paying for the food, customers will often have to pay a delivery fee. The delivery fee will cover the cost of gas or other transportation costs, but usually does not go to the delivery person.[9] For meal delivery, it is common to give the deliverer an optional tip upon paying for the order.[citation needed] In Canada and the United States, tipping for delivery is customary. Opinions on appropriate amounts vary widely.[10] In addition, grocery stores may charge more for the foods that are ordered online for delivery than they charge for the same items off-the-shelf.

Online food delivery statistics[edit]

According to research conducted by the NDP Group, online restaurant ordering is growing 300% faster than dine-in traffic.[11]

"Online ordering has started to become the norm, thanks to the convenience, accuracy, and ability to integrate payments. At scale, ubiquitous on-demand and subscription delivery of prepared food could potentially spell the end of cooking at home.”[12]

According to Forbes, grocery stores should delivery their own groceries to help prevent third party, part time, non-store deliverers from becoming the 'face' or brand image of their local grocer. Limitations of having to pick and delivery groceries within a short period of time need to be remedied to allow for more flexibility to enable more deliveries to be more efficiently routed. Frozen and fresh food refrigeration units inside the store and the delivery vehicle, as well as lockable, consumer refrigeration boxes at the consumers home will be a solution that allows the groceries to be delivered at any time, further relieving delivery issues. This scenario will allow more local grocers to delivery with employees vs outside delivery services.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "배달음식 1호, 1768년 7월 냉면". Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  2. ^ "여름철 대표 먹거리 '냉면' 언제부터 인기 있었을까?". Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Topic: Pizza Restaurant / Delivery Industry". Retrieved 2017-12-28.
  4. ^ "Pizza Hut Just Fixed The Biggest Problem About Getting Pizzas Delivered". Delish. 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2017-12-28.
  5. ^ "Kroger has a game-changing new grocery service, and moms are freaking out about it". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-12-28.
  6. ^ "Our Weekly Meal Plans | Fresh Food Delivery | HelloFresh". Retrieved 2017-12-28.
  7. ^ "15 Best Grocery-Delivery Services That Are Worth the Money". GOBankingRates. 2017-12-03. Retrieved 2017-12-28.
  8. ^ "After Amazon-Whole Foods deal, grocery delivery companies adapt". statesman. Retrieved 2017-12-28.
  9. ^ "A Common Misconception Is Cutting Into Pizza Delivery Drivers' Pay". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-12-28.
  10. ^ "How much to tip? Well, it depends. 4 tips to make it less taxing". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017-12-28.
  11. ^ "Restaurant takeout and delivery are taking a bite out of dine-in traffic". Nation's Restaurant News. 2016-06-24. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  12. ^ "Millennials are spending a lot less time cooking, and it could hurt America's biggest food companies". Retrieved 2018-10-11.


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