Being isolated for months by Covid forced us to alter several normal behaviors. One that has become obvious to me is the concept of food delivery to our homes. Both grocery and individual meal delivery have become major businesses. Actually, grocery delivery to homes started in the 1990s though it never really caught on.
Fast forward a decade. Being able to compile an order on a computer and have it ready for pickup became a viable option. Not surprisingly, Amazon was the first major company to try its hand at mastering the complexities of online order fulfillment. Amazon Fresh began in 2007 in select cities. In 2013 Walmart began to offer something similar.
Without turning this post into a history of grocery chain development, suffice it to say the outbreak of social isolation in early 2020 solidified the benefits and expanded the offerings. When it became clear that normal trips to the grocery store were not going to happen, Betty and I went the route of stocking up our pantry with several weeks’ worth of food. Places like Walmart and Safeway offered special hours when only seniors were allowed in the store. With masks, social distancing, and lots of hand sanitizers, we would leave the house every few weeks to restock. Even so, it was nerve-wracking since this was before vaccination availability for many.
While we were venturing forth, a lot of the American public was making other choices: picking up bags of food that someone else plucked from the shelves and delivered to the car’s trunk, or having those same bags deposited by the front door. While I can’t find figures that always agree, somewhere between 33% and 45% of us have ordered our food online for pickup or delivery, at least once in the past 18 months.
Those who track these things are unsure what the future will look like. During pandemic times, use skyrocketed. But, when either Covid has run its course or we have enough vaccinated people to feel safer, what will happen? Will we be spoiled by the convenience of someone else doing the hard part? Or, do we miss walking the aisles to make our own decisions? Will delivery services make too many mistakes for us to trust them? Will the price of delivery start to outweigh the pluses? Or, have we found an easier way of living that we want to keep?
Do we consider the economic impact of the delivery vans and cars, or make the argument that our vehicle is not on the street; multiple deliveries by one driver have less impact on the environment?
Ponder all that for a moment while I switch gears to ask about individual meal delivery. GrubHub, Door Dash, Postmates, Uber Eats….each month brings new companies to our attention. They all provide the same service: meals ordered from a restaurant or fast-casual restaurant are picked up and brought to you. For a fee, delivery charge, and a tip, getting that Big Mac Combo or four-cheese lasagna dinner (with garlic bread and salad) no longer has to mean leaving your home. Specialty companies will deliver a week’s worth of healthy, vegan, meat, or other mixture in a box and leave it by your door.
Staying socially distant has never been so easy. If your budget allows for it, why drive across town? Enjoy the same meal in front of your own TV screen or on the patio. No risk of rushed waiters, screaming babies, or a waitlist of 45 minutes.
For others, eating a meal at a restaurant is considered a special treat. No cooking, no cleanup, an extensive menu, being served by someone else, seeing other human beings enjoying themselves, and I really want to get out of my house!
I will admit to being conflicted about this meal-at-home delivery option. The added costs make a relatively simple meal more expensive. I am a firm believer in dealing face-to-face with a waitperson, interacting with them, and leaving a generous tip for catering to me. Giving the same money to someone who drives the meal to my door doesn’t have the same attraction.
Yet, there are times when getting dressed up (even a little) is beyond me. Dealing with traffic, parking, and that loud TV over the bar playing a soccer match from Romania turns me off. Home delivery becomes a special treat.
At least for my family, grocery delivery has never really been a draw. Even though we shop with a list, there are additions, a change of plan, or something that just appeals to us. That spontaneousness cannot occur when ordering online.
Individual meal delivery is more likely to become part of our routine. There is a cost, but usually less than a restaurant experience. Every now and then not having to cook and clean is worth a premium.
How about you? Online or in-person? Delivery or pickup/stay and eat? Each of us has probably seen a change in attitude since the spring of 2020. I am fascinated to learn what you are choosing to do.